Heart of Europe Debating Tournament

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History of Heart of Europe International Debating Tournament

Establishment of tournament

John L. Wickham

The Heart of Europe Debating Tournament is a WSDC (World Schools Deabting Championships) based tournament founded by John L. Wickham and the students of Olomouc – Hejcin High School. Originally a competition for high school students of European countries that had previously participated in the KPDP (Karl Popper Debate Program) established by OSI (Open Society Institute), after some time it became a truly global competition for high school debaters. The first Heart of Europe Debating Tournament was held in Olomouc, Czech Republic in 2001. The event attracted participants from Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. In 2002, the tournament didn’t take place because the organizers were not able to obtain the necessary funding. Nonetheless, a year later, in 2003, the second year of the tournament was held. It has been hosted in Olomouc, Czech Republic every time since then, being organised by Debate Club Olomouc throughout the years 2004 – 2009. Heart of Europe has lately become an annual event and has been organised by the Association of Debate Clubs of Olomouc Region since 2010.

Year 2010

The year 2010 was a real step-up for the tournament, having had 17 countries participate, including such exotic ones as South Africa and China (Hong Kong) that engaged in the Grand Final of this year.

Year 2011

In year 2011 there was really significant step in improvement of quality of the tournament. Organising Committee established cooperation with the Palacky University Olomouc. All the debates took place in the magnificient building of the Faculty of Science. The tournament also gained new visual style this year and a lot of work was done on promotion, especially via social networking or photo and video documentation. New participating countries were Moldova, Montenegro, Russia, Singapore and Sweden.

Year 2012

Year 2012 was the greatest cornerstone in the history of the tournament. It was held by a new organization, Czech Debate Society, z. s. For the first time, the tournament was also available online to participants all around the world because of the project “Heart of Europe accesible to everyone”. What more, one additional new project was connected with the promotion of the tournament, The Czech Debate TV, with purpose to monitor debate and educational events and present educational videos. The tournament enjoyed fruitful partnerships with projects Debating Europe and The Office of the Government of the Czech Republic – European Affairs Information Department. In that year we have yet again welcomed several new nations, namely Chile, Nigeria, Macedonia, as well as it was the 5th anniversary of Jakub Kadlec’ involvement with the tournament.

Year 2013

The year 2013 was the 10th anniversary of Heart of Europe and the tournament got its mascot Herr Heart. The biggest innovation of Heart of Europe 2013 was a test run of the British Parliamentary track before the high school competition, which proved to be a success and will be repeated in the future. As for the staff, the Chief Adjudicator panel was changed – extended to include judges from all over the planet in order to increase its diversity. There were also new participating countries (such as Croatia or Ukraine) and new partneships made, mainly the one with Debate Club Pandora in Kiev, which later resulted in CDS helping with organization at their tournament called Under Chestnut Trees. Other new partners and sponsors included AES, ARGO, ČEZ or Deleo. In terms of cultural program, Heart of Europe newly included a talent show, where everyone was invited to showcase any skill other than debating. Several debaters and judges performed singing, playing an instrument, dancing as well as some acting and stand up comedy. The next addition was a thematic tour of the city, which was special that year because of historical costumes and props used to demonstrate the legends of Olomouc. Additionally, registration to the tournament was tied to a blood donorship initiative.

Year 2014

Year 2014 was most notable by the outstanding quality of the teams, even by the already quite high standard of the tournament – perhaps a result of multiple delegations spending several years prior to 2014 honing their skills at our tournament every year. The teams were also extraordinarily balanced. In the first break round, the last team to make the break from the 16th place defeated the first team, two members of which were still the best two speakers of the whole tournament. Even more interestingly, the team with the best two speakers was from South Africa, just like the team that ultimately won the whole tournament, only from an entirely different institution, thus also continuing the regular cycle of different continent winning each year. This was also the first year after the definitive retirement of the founder of the tournament, John L. Wickham, from the position of Chief Judge, making it a bit of an experiment in new organizational procedures. The new paradigm for the future of the tournament was decided to be a rotating position of a chief judge, open to new ascending debate stars, as well as experienced debate masters. New participating countries were Bermuda, China and Denmark.

Year 2015

Year 2015 continued in the tradition of four continents being represented (Europe, Asia, North America, and Africa), and had one of the most interesting International Friendship Nights ever, including cardboard Michelle Obama, Bulgarian traditional dresses and dances, and the release of Chinese lanterns into the skies. The winning team was yet again from a different continent than during the previous year, this time from Canada, and they faced strong competition especially from teams from Denmark and Thailand. Interesting first time occurence was the inclusion of a homeschooling debate team from Springfield, USA, as opposed to the usual case in which all debaters are students of educational institutions. Since this team ended up breaking, it has definitely proven that participation of homeschooling students can indeed be educational and inspirational. This year new participating countries were Morocco, Poland, Thailand and Vietnam.

Year 2016

Heart of Europe had again grown in size in 2016 to 40 teams, including some new additions to participating countries like Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, India, Peru, Qatar, and Spain. One of the ongoing trends that became especially apparent this time was the increase in the skill and experience level of the participating debaters.In part, this was happening because larger portion of the debaters were returning ones who have previously participated at Heart of Europe. At the same time, more high level international debaters were attracted to the tournament by its rising significance in the world debating circuit over the last couple of years. The motions debated in qualification rounds covered a range of topics from education, through women’s rights, to global economics. The grand final debate dealt with the issue of residual European colonialism, and it happened between the teams from Canada and Denmark, with the Canadians taking the prize.

Year 2017

The 2017 edition, can be summarised as the year of rebranding and innovations for Heart of Europe. The tournament obtained a new logo to follow the trends on social media. The maskot, Mr Heart, who was part of our blood giving initiative since 2012 came to life this year. He could be seein guiding the participants throughout the course of the tournament. Thanks to Marius Petcu from Romania, we were able to introduce a tournament mobile app for Android and Apple. Concerning the organisation aspect, we introduced a gender policy to have Co-Convenors of both genders. The first Co-Convenors to use this policy, were Matylda Klosova and Jakub Kadlec. It was Jakub’s 10th year at the tournament.
Regarding the gender policy, we also introduced a yearly rotation of the Chief Adjudicator’s gender. We had an amazing female, Simona Anca Mazilu from Romania, the co-founder of ARGO. In 2017, we did a bowling tournament which gave a chance to a lot of participants to try their hand at bowling for the first time. The final consisted of debating on the policy of the USA towards Russia. Both sides were represented by American Logos from the US. The new nations represented at the tournament were the Netherlands, Mexico, and Mongolia. We had in-kind support of new partners PAPIRNY BRNO, a.s. for notepads, and DM Life, s.r.o. for drinks.

Year 2018

2018 was very different year, because we had to change our usual debate venue, as the Faculty of Science of the Palacky University was in reconstruction. Our new venue was the Emanuel Potting Medical high school building with a long history in education as it was build in the nineteenth century. Continuing on the venues, we returned to our party venue BEST where we were seen last in 2014. Concerning the socials, we organised our first trip to the zoo. In debate activities, we have again followed out gender policy (as introduced in 2017) and we had a duo of Tabulation Officers Daniel Azaz from Slovenia and Laura Krawczyk from Poland. They have used a new programme for tabulations TabbyCat. We were debating cryptocurrencies, journalism, and a multi-speed Europe. The Grand final was particularly interesting as we had two non-European teams debating the complexity of having a two speed Europe. In the end, the US’ team won against Argentina. The new participating countries at Heart of Europe 2019 International Debating Tournament were Brazil, Namibia, and the United Arab Emirates.


List of participating countries

Heart of Europe DT has become very popular during past years. There have been many participants from various countries from all over the world.


  • Ghana
  • Morocco
  • Namibia
  • Nigeria
  • South Africa


  • Argentina
  • Bermuda
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Mexico
  • Peru
  • United States


  • China
  • Hong Kong
  • India
  • Israel
  • Japan
  • Mongolia
  • Palestine
  • Qatar
  • Russia
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Thailand
  • Turkey
  • UAE
  • Vietnam


  • Belarus
  • Bosnia
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Czechia
  • Denmark
  • England
  • Estonia
  • Germany
  • Hungary
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Macedonia
  • Moldova
  • Montenegro
  • Netherlands


  • Poland
  • Romania
  • Scotland
  • Serbia
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Ukraine
  • UK
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2001  2003  2008  2009  2010  2011  2012  2013  2014  2015 2016 2017 2018 2019


  • To promote free speech;
  • To nurture the skills of public speech and rhetorics;
  • To develop cooperation among the youth;
  • To advocate debate;
  • To foster cultural and social understanding and exchange;
  • To promote the Czech Republic and Olomouc Region;
  • To contribute to education.


In accordance with these goals, all participating teams agree upon the following

  • Any team is required to be willing to debate any issue;
  • Any team of a participating nation will likely be required to debate against the team of another participating nation;
  • Any and all teams are entitled to take part in the Heart of Europe Debating Tournament under the same set of regulations and requirements as other teams, possessing the same rights and responsibilities.


Regulations and Guidelines

All debates are conducted in English. A team may consist of 3-5 members who are between 11 and 21 years old each. The participants have to be students of a secondary/high school or recent graduates of a high school, meaning that they graduated from a high school no earlier than 3 months before the start of the tournament. The regulations may be adjusted on individual basis due to, for instance, differences in education systems in the teams’ respective countries of origin. Refer to the Rules for more detailed information.

All debaters should be familiar with content of both documents prior to their arrival to Heart of Europe Debate Tournament

All tournament documents can be found in section Regulations & guidelines.