June 26, 2008 / 6:47 AM / 11 years ago

Japanese athletes begin chopstick-less "food camp"

People eat with chopsticks in Tokyo April 7, 2008. REUTERS/Issei Kato

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese athletes have begun a spartan, chopstick-free Chinese food training program to help them acclimatize for this year’s Beijing Olympics.

Japan’s National Training Centre will offer basic Chinese dishes such as noodles, cold spring rolls and fried catfish once a week in a dry run for the August 8-24 Games.

None of the Chinese food on offer will be diluted for Japanese taste buds, chefs even being ordered to make Japan’s staple miso soup without traditional stock, local media reported on Thursday.

In an attempt to simulate culinary conditions at the athletes’ village in Beijing, Japanese athletes will eat from paper plates using plastic knives, forks and spoons.

Peking Duck was a clear favorite in Wednesday’s first official “Olympic Menu Fair” although some athletes were less than impressed with the alternatives.

Weightlifter Hiromi Miyake complained of a lack of taste while her father and coach Yoshiyuki said: “We’ll have to pack some soy sauce and chopsticks when we go to Beijing!”

Dumplings imported from China contaminated with pesticide triggered a food scare in Japan earlier this year, intensifying the often-strained relations between the countries.

Both governments blamed sabotage rather than production failings and Japanese officials have sought to play down concerns over the quality of cuisine athletes can expect at the Olympics.

(Reporting by Alastair Himmer; Editing by John O’Brien)

For more stories visit our multimedia website "Road to Beijing" here ; and see our blog at blogs.reuters.com/china

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