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Visitors to Games face a world of food choices

Uptown, by the old Buddhist temple, the goulash never cools, the champagne flows like a river and musicians play gypsy music well into the night.

Down by the station, the dish of the day is rattlesnake chili.With delegations from all over the globe in town for the Olympics, Nagano is no longer a backwater in the world of haute cuisine.

But along with the exotic delicacies come something a tad harder to swallow - sales pitches from Slovakia to Texas and just about everywhere in between.

For the more than 1 million Japanese tourists expected to converge on Nagano during the games, temporary noodle booths, candy stands and apple stalls have gone up near the train station.

"Soba" shops - which sell a kind of buckwheat noodle famous across the country - are already doing a booming business.

But for the more adventurous, and those with the right connections, there are a slew of impromptu eateries and guest houses featuring the food of the Olympic world.

Nagano has its Casa Italia, its Heineken House and - with the blessing of Nagano Mayor Tasuku Tsukada - Slovak House.

"May your athletes go home with gold, silver and bronze," he said as the Slovak House opened Wednesday.

"The food is all so good," said Naoki Fujiki, a local junior high school English teacher. "Do you know what any of it is?"

Meanwhile, across town at the ritzy Metropolitan Hotel, the U.S. Olympic Committee was doing its part to plug American food with a rattlesnake chili tasting.

"This chili has rattlesnake meat from Colorado, beef from Texas, spices from New Mexico and even a bit of maple syrup from Vermont," explained John Krimsky, the committee's deputy executive director.