With 124 Days Until the Paris Olympics, France Revives the Century-Old Waiters’ Race: Here’s Everything You Need To Know About It

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First time in over a decade, the French capital decided to resurrect its iconic waiters’ race, ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics. It used to be an annual race of restaurant and cafe waiters and waitresses. The race first went live in 1914 where hundreds of participants cruised their way briskly to the finishing line. Sadly, there was a prolonged pause to this tradition after 2012 because of a lack of sponsors. This year, the City Hall stepped in to carry forward the French legacy.
With just 124 days until the Paris Olympics, around 200 men and women went off the course on 24th March 2024, to revive the annual tradition of the French profession, the waiters’ race. They jogged and barreled for 1.2 miles reviving the French tradition. Let us take a look at some details of the unique race.
Not the typical kind of race
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Probably, the most interesting part of the Waiter’s Race (La course de garçons de café) is that instead of athletic gear, the participants run in their restaurant uniforms. To add another layer to it, they carry their trays with a cup of coffee, a croissant, and a glass of water while racing. The rule is to finish the 2km distance as fast as possible, but without running and without spilling a drop or crust!
The route of the race passes through the Marais district, known for its lively bars and 17th-century mansions. The race started at Paris City Hall. The competitors headed to the Centre Pompidou, then passed through the narrow streets of the Marais, the capital’s old Jewish quarter, before returning to the starting point. The prizes were lucrative as well.
The top three participants won a stay at a four-star hotel and fancy restaurant meals. To make matters grander, the winners received tickets to the 2024 Paris Olympics opening ceremony, According to a report by AP. So who were the lucky ones to snatch the rewards?
A celebration of the waitering profession
Pauline Van Wymeersch and Samy Lamrous were crowned this year’s fastest waitress and waiter. Van Wymeersch was the runaway winner clocking in 14 minutes and 12 seconds. Currently, she works at the Le Petit Pont café. Likewise, in the men’s category, Samy Lamrous had taken the fly too seriously to triumph with a 13-minute and 30-second timestamp. He works at La Contrescarpe, Paris’s 5th district restaurant. Van Wymeersch reflected on her win in a post-run conversation.
Van Wymeersch believes that being in the waitering profession is what she envisages for the rest of her lifetime. She stated, “I love it as much as I hate it. It’s in my skin. I cannot leave it. It’s hard. It’s exhausting. It’s demanding. It’s 12 hours per day. It’s no weekends. It’s no Christmases.” Then what keeps her going?
Van Wymeersch said, “…it’s part of my DNA. I grew up in a way with a tray in my hand. I have been shaped, in life and the job, by the bosses who trained me and the customers, all of the people, I have met.” All these raise the question what made the organizers revive the race in the Olympic year?
Showcasing the ‘French way of life’ ahead of the Paris Olympics
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The thought of bringing back the race in this very significant year stems from the roots of French culture. One integral part of it is its cafe and Bistro culture. “When foreigners come to Paris, they don’t just come for the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, they also come to eat in our cafes, at the Bouillon Chartier, the Brasserie Lipp, or the Procope,” explained Nicolas Bonnet-Oulaldj, the deputy mayor in charge of commerce to the New York Times.
Furthering the emotion, The capital’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo, said cafés and restaurants are “really the soul of Paris…The bistrot is where we go to meet people, where we go for our little coffee, our little drink, where we also go to argue, to love and embrace each other.” Central to this soul are the waiters and the waitresses.
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Therefore, the idea behind the race this year was to showcase this side of the French legacy to the world so that they can delve into it during their visit to the city at the Olympics. Marcel Bénézet, the president of a service industry trade group said, “It’s important to showcase our profession, A lot goes on in Parisian cafes.” Understandably, through the race, the Olympic venue reminds the visitors to taste the “French way of life, and a Parisian way of life,” as pointed out by Bonnet-Oulaldj.

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