Once she was the lovely hostess. Now she runs a soup kitchen. A
Japanese flag hangs over a small storefront on South Third
Street in downtown Salt Lake City. This is Nagano House,
representing the host city of the 1998 Winter Olympics. Back
then the hostess--her name is Nagano--had been dressed up and
vivacious, devoted to her worldly partner, the Olympic Games.
And now this: to entice visitors to Nagano House, the workers,
who are all from Japan, offer free miso soup in a paper cup from
10 a.m. to noon each day. "We wanted to come here and support
the Games," said staffer Yumiko Hiraishi. On the walls are
Japanese and Salt Lake Olympic flags, signed with good wishes
from Japanese schoolchildren, the more ambitious of whom tried
out their English. GET OVER THE GOLD MD. THAN NAGANO OLIMPIC
reads one message, perhaps urging the Japanese Olympians to win
more medals in Utah than they did at home. After noon, Nagano
House serves inexpensive lunches. An Olympian from Nagano,
Japanese skeleton racer Kazuhiro Koshi, is sitting at one of the
seven plastic tables eating a lunch of oden (a winter stew) and
onigiri (rice ball). "It tastes like home," Koshi says.
Nagano remains loyal, though its glamorous partner has moved on.
The Games have gigoloed their way into Salt Lake City, its
skyscrapers spiffed up with Olympic finery, its residents
wearing paper doughnut-shaped goggles. If Nagano is known for
miso, then Salt Lake is known for Tommie's Donuts, which is
promoting itself this week by handing out the specs. That may
explain why the IOC is now eyeing that bella donna in residence
on the 19th floor of the Wells Fargo Center on Main Street.
There, young hostesses in smart black pantsuits with the TORINO
2006 insignia welcome visitors to see what awaits in Italy in
2006. Flat-screen monitors show highlights of past Games while
eight TVs and three computers let visitors keep up with the
current action. A floor map allows guests to walk their way
across the Italian Alps from Turin to Claviere, near the French
Several floors below, Casa Italia is operating a 400-seat
restaurant that prepares the cuisine of the Piedmont for the
guests of the Turin Olympic committee. Tablecloths are white.
Wines are white and red. Chefs and waiters flew over from the
Turin area. This new lovely surely knows the way to an Olympics'
heart: Lunch on Friday featured spinach tortellini, prosciutto,
duck breast and asparagus salad, hazelnut cake and il tempo
delle castagne, a chocolate chestnut confection that would turn
even the most devoted partner's head. As we already know, the
Olympics are not the most devoted partner. Torino's short-term
future promises a torrid fling. If, however, Torino would like a
glimpse of her future beyond 2006, she should walk out of the
Wells Fargo Center to the corner and look up the block. There
sits Nagano House, doling out miso in a paper cup.