Although the 2012 London Olympic games have yet to begin, Heathrow Airport, London’s busiest airport and the route to and from the games that most of the athletes and officials will take, is already gearing up for the Olympic aftermath and the expectation of its busiest departure day on record.
While the influx of Olympic participants is likely to be spread over several days leading up to the event, due to the varying requirements for training and accommodation from team to team, the Olympic closing ceremony on Sunday 12 August will raise the curtain on a mass exodus the following day, mostly through Heathrow Airport.
If the airport handles the expected 138,000 departures that day, it will be an historical record. To cope with this one-off event, Heathrow has spent £20 million on the construction of a temporary terminal to handle the Olympic traffic.
Built on a car park, the facility with its 31 check-in desks and security lanes has bolstered Heathrow management’s confidence that it will be able to effectively speed the 19,850 parting Olympic athletes, while ensuring that regular travellers in the standard terminals progress normally and with little or no evidence that they are helping to set a record.
Despite the special arrangements that have been mad to cope, not just with the numbers of people passing through the airport in that period, but also the massive amount of baggage handling that they will generate, passengers using the airport are advised to arrive at least two hours before their flights, and to avoid traffic jams by taking the Heathrow Express wherever possible.