The Waiters Race is exactly what it sounds like. Appropriately dressed participants – in full waiter and waitress gear, line up at the start line balancing a tray in one hand. On the tray will be placed at least one full bottle of liquid of some sort and some glasses which may also be filled with liquid. The intrepid sportsman or woman must run a designated course, past throngs of cheering fans and get to the finishing line without spilling a drop and without dropping a glass.
Nobody knows the exact roots of the waiters race but its origins appear to be from the culture of France. In the 19th century, the ability of Parisian waiters to juggle tasks and rush around at breakneck speed with trays filled to the brim was legendary. The most famous of the waiters races was in Paris and by the early 1900s, waiter races are taking place across Europe. Here’s a fun video from the 1929 Paris race. The Waiters Race website states that today, the race has been exported around the world and attracts thousands of people every year, coming out to support “their” Garçon de café. The race exists in all five continents and adapts itself to the local customs of the respective area. In South America for example, races include obstacles. In China and Spain, races take place on the shores of sunny beaches. In Australia, they are organized in the small streets of a market. In Iceland, races are held on a lush green lawn in a park… and in Scandinavia, the race takes place on a cruise ship.
Waiter race in Berlin, 1930
The Paris Waiter Race traditionally took place on Bastille Day, but there has not been an official race in the city where it all began for some time. That’s about to change though, as The Paris Waiters Race is being resurrected in 2014. You can check progress, dates and details on the official website: Olympiad des Garcons de Café, or find one near you (even in the US!)