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Paris revives iconic waiters’ race ahead of Olympic Games

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Visitors to central Paris were treated Sunday to the sight of hundreds of aproned waiters surging through the city’s medieval streets, in a one-of-a-kind race designed to show off the profession months ahead of the Olympic Games.

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Men’s winner Samy Lamrous and top waitress Pauline Van Wymeersch walked the two-kilometre (1.2-mile) route in 13 minutes 30 seconds and 14 minutes 12 seconds respectively – each carrying a tray with a croissant, espresso and glass of water.

As well as their medals, both winners would receive a night’s stay in a swanky hotel, said city water authority Eau de Paris, which sponsored the event.

Contestants set off and finished at Paris city hall
Contestants set off and finished the race outside Paris city hall. © Dimitar Dilkoff, AFP

“Congratulations to everyone who took part,” the body wrote on X (formerly Twitter), alongside a video of Lamrous panting for breath as he broke through the tape.

First born in 1914, the “course des garçons de café” (cafe waiters’ race) was held on March 24 for the first time since 2011 – four months before the city hosts the Olympics in July-August.

The pace was strictly limited to walking for the duration of the race
The pace was strictly limited to walking for the duration of the race. © Dimitar Dilkoff, AFP

With the dismissive “garçon” (“boy”) rarely used to refer to waiters nowadays, it was re-baptised this year as “course des cafés“, or “cafes race”.

Unlike their Lycra-clad Olympic counterparts, the waiters wore a white shirt, dark trousers and an apron provided by the organisers.

The 200 contestants started and finished the race at city hall by the Seine river, set on their way by mayor Anne Hidalgo.

The waiters’ race was originally started to “highlight this French style of service, these establishments that are envied the world over, this Parisian way of life,” deputy mayor responsible for business Nicolas Bonnet-Oulaldj said when the event was announced last month.

Competitors wound through the medieval streets of the Marais district
Competitors wound through the medieval streets of the Marais district in central Paris. © Dimitar Dilkoff, AFP

“We want the Olympic Games to give a positive boost to the profession” of restaurants and waitering, he added.

(AFP)

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