One of our favorite elements of the International History Olympiad is the opportunity to incorporate sites in our host cities into the program of competitions and activities. At past Olympiads, we have competed on the flight deck of the USS Intrepid in New York Harbor, held a sleepover on the battleship Missouri in Pearl Harbor, and held our Closing Ceremonies inside Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin. But no other city on earth provides quite the historic backdrop to a History Olympiad that Rome can – and we took full advantage of that at IHO 2023!

Students met at the Arch of Constantine outside the Colosseum prior to the Opening Ceremonies Parade (pompa circensis)

The Olympiad began with a parade of over 250 students from the Arch of Constantine and the Colosseum down to and through the Circus Maximus. In Ancient Rome, parades (known as a pompa circensis) were held at the Circus Maximus at the start of the ludi, the games that played a prominent role in daily Roman life. At the 2023 International History Olympiad, we revived this tradition in style with students parading in alphabetical order by affiliation (i.e. their country or US state), before hearing their names called one by one as they exited the Circus to walk over to the nearby St. Stephen’s School that hosted the Olympiad. Honorary flagbearers, determined on the basis of accomplishments at prior Olympiads, the International History Bee and Bowl, or National History Bee and Bowl (for US students), were chosen to carry their state or country’s flag on the parade route.

At five other times throughout the week we then returned to the Circus Maximus as one of the venues for our competitions! Using our portable, battery-operated buzzer systems, we held the Finals of the Sports History Bee in the Circus Maximus on a beautiful summer evening. And in addition to that, all four age divisions had a chance to compete in the new Running Combined event. Students who competed in this event first took a quiz on Roman History. Depending on how students did on the quiz, they lined up closer to or farther away from the finish line in a running race held exactly on the track where chariots once raced 2000 years ago! In a humorous sidenote, the Junior Varsity Champion, Attila Nagy of Hungary, was promptly dubbed “Attila the Run.”

Attila Nagy of Hungary took first place in the Junior Varsity Running Combined

Sports History Bee Champions – (Full Results)     
Varsity: Tanuj Chandekar, New Jersey
Junior Varsity: Angus Paterson, Australia
Middle School: Malcolm McIntyre, District of Columbia
Elementary: Vishaal Teklur, California

Running Combined Champions – (Full Results)
Varsity: Aalok Bhattacharya, Connecticut
Junior Varsity: Attila Nagy, Hungary
Middle School: Justin Yuan, Virginia
Elementary: Joash Thomas, California

Competitions at special sites concluded on Saturday, the penultimate day of the Olympiad. In the morning, the finals of the Catholic History Bee were held at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City. Players were tested on up to 40 paragraph-length buzzer-based questions on 2000 years of Catholic Church history. After Olympiad students had had the chance to tour St. Peter’s Basilica, visit the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, and even (for some lucky students on the opening Sunday) see Pope Francis himself, the chance to play in St. Peter’s Square was certainly a highlight of the Olympiad for all students who competed.

Catholic History Bee Champions – (Full Results)
Varsity: Luke Szczepiorkowski, New Hampshire
Junior Varsity: Jinkai Hao, Macau
Middle School: Parker Jelke, Florida
Elementary: Raymond McKelvey, Maryland

Finally, on Saturday afternoon, the stage was set for 40 students to compete in the greatest arena of them all, as our Roman History Bee finals were held inside the Colosseum itself! 10 students from each age division competed in four separate areas within the arena, with questions focusing on all aspects of Ancient Rome ab urbe condita to the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity at a venue that can’t be beat for a history tournament – after all, as Cole Porter sang “You’re the Top – You’re the Colosseum!” Congratulations to all students for a great event!

Roman History Bee Champions – (Full Results)
Varsity: Jose Iñigo Beltran, Philippines
Junior Varsity: Galen Mueller, Canada
Middle School: Luke Ng, Singapore
Elementary: Taylor Chen, Tennessee