Olympics Adds Baristathon as Demonstration Sport

BOSTON, Mass.  It’s 2 p.m. on a Monday afternoon, which means that Caitlin Fraser is coming to the end of the busiest eight-hours she will work all week at Insufficient Grounds, a coffee and espresso-drink specialty shop where she has been a barista for the past three years.  “Mondays are the worst,” she says as she visibly slumps from exhaustion.  “People need caffeine to steel themselves for a week of mindless drone work, and they want it fast.  The caffeine, not the mindless drone work.”


But an onlooker holding a stopwatch in his hands shows no sympathy and indeed shakes his head with disapproval as Fraser takes off her bandana headband.  “I can’t say it was one of your better days,” says Kevin Mittelman, an intense man with salt-and-pepper hair wearing a running suit. “You’re going to have to work on your steamed milk technique.”

Compulsory figures.

Fraser is in training for what will be the world’s first competitive espresso event at the Olympic level, and Mittelman is her coach for the Games of the XXXIst Olympiad this coming summer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  “You have a chance to get yourself on a Wheaties box if you’ll only push yourself,” Mittelman says as Fraser re-hydrates following the grueling shift in which she made a total of 152 lattes, cappuccinos, mochas and macchiatos.  “I’ll do better tomorrow,” she replies, before a wrist cramp causes her to wince in pain.  “And I don’t even like Wheaties.”

“There is no way I’m sleeping with that groaty old judge.”


Proposals to add a demonstration sport to the Olympics for coffee lovers have foundered in the past due the inability of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to reach agreement on terminology.  “Is it ‘baristry’ that they do?  Or should it be ‘baristing’?” says Hernando de Blanco (“Herman White”), the immediate past chair of the IOC’s New Event Task Force.  “Finally we settle on ‘Baristathon,’ but only after many long and difficult sessions from which we would take breaks only for lap dances and bribes.”

The Baristathon will replicate an eight-hour shift at a coffee shop, with contestants allowed only one lunch and two cigarette breaks.  “We heard from many top-flite baristas that they could not go eight hours without obtaining additional body piercings and tattoos,” said de Blanco.  “In the end, we decided to keep things simple, and also to enjoy another lap dance.”

“Help!  I fell into a mocha!”

Scoring for the event will be modeled on figure skating, with “compulsory figures” including a fern leaf steamed milk pattern in a caramel half-caf macchiato, and a “free style” program in which baristas can attempt more daring creations.  “We realize that there can be disputes with any subjective scoring system that relies on the number of stuffed animals that are thrown at a contestant,” notes de Blanco.  “This is why we use as an objectively-verifiable backup the monetary value of bribes we receive.”



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