Waiters to race through Paris streets as historic contest returns

Waitering isn't all fun and games (Emmanuel DUNAND)
Waitering isn't all fun and games (Emmanuel DUNAND)

Tourists in the narrow streets of Paris's historic centre next month may find themselves dodging swarms of servers with trays of coffee and croissants, as a long-defunct waitering contest is revived.

First born in 1914, the "course des garcons de cafe" (cafe waiters' race) is being held on March 24 for the first time since 2011 -- four months before the city hosts the Olympic Games in July-August.

"It's the rebirth of a legendary race," said Dan Lert, one of Paris's deputy mayors and chief of the French capital's water authority Eau de Paris, which is stumping up 100,000 euros ($107,000) in sponsorship.

Unlike their Lycra-clad Olympic counterparts, the waiters will wear a white shirt, dark trousers and an apron "which will be provided" by organisers, Lert said.

Running will be banned as they each bear a tray with a croissant, a coffee and a glass of water over a two-kilometre (1.2 miles) route through the tight medieval streets of the Marais district -- all, hopefully, without spilling a drop.

The 200 contestants will start and finish the race at city hall by the Seine river.

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," said Nicolas Bonnet-Oulaldj, another deputy mayor responsible for business.

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

The post-2011 hiatus for the waiters' race came as no-one could be found to sponsor it until city hall stepped in, said Pascal Mousset of hotel and restaurant body GHR.