http://danvillesanramon.com/print/story/print/2008/08/08/families-cancel-trips-to-olympics


DanvilleSanRamon.com

Newsfront - August 8, 2008

Families cancel trips to Olympics

Human rights issues make them unwilling to support China

by Meghan Neal

Five Danville and Alamo families that had originally planned a trip to Beijing to go to the Olympics this summer backed out at the last minute - for political reasons.

The families expressed strong opinions about controversial human rights issues in China and didn't want to support the country, said Cheryl Pollino, manager of Danville Travel.

"People here in the Danville-Alamo area are very savvy as to what is going on over there, and they just didn't want to support it," she said.

No other local travel agencies reported cancelled trips.

The clients had already paid for the costly trips before, one by one, they changed their minds. Pollino noted the families had built their vacations not only around the Olympic Games but also around the idea of exploring a culture so dissimilar to the United States.

But things have changed since they first booked the trips - and, for that matter, since Beijing was first chosen to host the Olympics, seven years ago.

Issues like China's suppression of Tibet, its involvement in the crisis in Darfur, and its citizens' lack of freedom under the Communist regime have been brought into the public eye and drawn international concern.

"With the Danville and Alamo people being very savvy and sophisticated travelers, and very aware, one by one they started dropping out," Pollino said. "And it was for the same reason."

The Danville area isn't the only place seeing this kind of reaction to the Beijing games. Olympics sponsors, advertisers and even athletes have protested or boycotted the event, often hoping to use the games as leverage to push China to change its ways.

"Seeing the Olympics this year is going to be very interesting based on that," said Pollino, noting this is the first time in her 19-year career she hasn't sent anyone to the event.

"The Olympics have always been the popular place to go ... but this year it isn't," she said. "Still, it's not going to stop how many tens of thousands of people from going."

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