Upon landing in Poland I was quickly whisked away to an immense hotel in Downtown Warsaw. I knew the second I entered the lobby of the hotel that this competition was a big deal. Students of all nationalities were mingling, flip cams in hand, excited about the journey they were about to embark on. Each elevator ride had it’s own story; a young Chinese student whose travel had literally taken her around the globe or a Nigerian whose smile had you convinced he had already won. In fact, all those who had made it  it this far, were winners. The 325,000 starting field had been reduced to only 400, with 69 countries represented at the World Finals.Cancel

The opening ceremonies took place in the courtyard of the Palace of Culture and Science, the tallest building in Poland which once adorned the name of Joseph Stalin in the lobby. Flags waved and camera shutters clicked as Jacek Murawski, General Manager of Microsoft Poland greeted the teams and spoke of the wonders of Poland and the dramatic economic transition his country has made in recent years. Jon Perara, General Manager of Microsoft Education spoke to the Imagine Cup finalists about their exceptional accomplishments and amazing potential,“We believe that technology can, will, and must make an impact on the biggest problems in the world. A lot of people will see great challenges and say, ‘Yeah, that’s a problem.’ We look at you as people who take action and say, ‘I can do something about that.’”

The ribbon marking the official opening of the 2010 World Finals of the Imagine Cup was cut as streamers and cheers filled the air. 

Next, Polish band Zakopower which doesn’t quite fit any particular genre impressed the crowd with their fun outfits from old Poland and their ability to combine guitars, drums, trumpets, violins and bagpipes.

As day one came to a close, the excitement and anticipation continued to build in the air. Tomorrow is the first day of competition.