I don’t like getting up early on Sundays when I don’t have to, but I thought it was important to see the end of the Olympiad and say goodbye to all my new friends. It was a lovely sunny day, I didn’t need my coat (though this is Volgograd, so I brought it anyway).
I went to the Jury Room and found most of my “dear colleagues” there, they wandered down to the auditorium in dribs and drabs. Most of them were from Moscow and would be travelling home later that day – one told me she had been to the market that morning to buy fish, this seems to be a popular tradition for people visiting Volgograd!
The auditorium was already mostly full when we arrived, and a lady in a red dress pulled me away from Lera and Margarita and sat me on the second row – the same seat as on Tuesday actually, but this time I was between one of the admin staff of the faculty and a man who turned out to be the representative of the British Council (who had a special prize for the winners).
So Wavy and Glam were again on presenting duties, when the National Anthem began playing and everyone stood up it was clearly time to begin. The programme started with a short film about Volgograd (with a catchy song, even I could work out the lyrics – Volgograd, my city, my city). I recognised almost all the images shown to represent the city as places I have visited (or pass by regularly), and I realised that I too can consider Volgograd to be my city.
There were a couple of speeches from important people, and another short video showing the story of the week, from the participants’ perspective. I had only really met two of the participants in the technical appeals hearing, so it was nice to see what the others had been doing, both how they did their listening, speaking and writing tasks, and the fun they had in their spare time, including a trip to Mamayev Kurgan.
They then started calling up the jury again, who were given certificates. I had been given a certificate on the way down to the auditorium as a thank you from the university, so I thought I was safe, but no, they called me up onto the stage again and gave me another certificate of thanks, this time from the competition organisers.
Next up a young girl read out a poem, The Restless Boy (I thought it was the Wrestler’s Boy from her pronunciation, but looked it up afterwards). And then there was a bit of dancing, from West Side Story (the “Mambo” dance). All very exciting.
Of course this was all about the participants so throughout the programme we saw students from across Russia come up to collect their certificates and goodie bags. It was occasionally comical as students were unsure where to stand – one boy went off the stage on one side, realised he needed to be back on it, went all the way across the front of the stage and came back on!
Next we had some Irish dancing…
A showtune – Don’t Rain on My Parade
And cutest of all a group of young street dancers going by the name of Kommanda Banda (Team Banda).
Were we finished? Oh no – the handkerchief ladies were back with more traditional Russian folk singing.
And so were the balladeers with their Orlando Bloom lookalike male lead…
But this was just filler before we got to the main business – the winners. The final batch all received medals.
And finally the guy from the British Council went up to introduce the four overall winners who received special study trip invitations to the UK. I’m not clear which of them got the university entrance credit or whether it applies to all of them. But certainly congratulations to all four of them (one of them in fact wrote the example text we discussed from the written test and not only did she get a mark back on that to raise it to 19, by proving you can use “the achieving of success” instead of “achievement”, but didn’t lose another mark in any of the other parts of the competition!).
The fun wasn’t finished though. There was a reprise from the handkerchief ladies, joined by some dancers doing traditional Russian dance, complete with leaps and twirls. Then after a speech from the competition president, all the performers came back onto the stage to sing what I guess might be the university anthem.
And then all the students took over the stage for photographs! Both Vladimir Ilyich and myself were asked to sign t-shirts for some of the students, I’m not sure which one of us was more surprised.