Special send off for competitors from Heathrow
A SPECIAL Games terminal at Heathrow airport was made to resemble a London park today to give Olympic athletes a good send off after the ending of the Games.
Plants, park benches and trees were on display at the terminal in west London as the first of around 6,000 athletes arrived for flights home.
The walls of the special terminal displayed London's skyline and the park is filled with iconic London designs such as the red telephone box and the double-decker Routemaster red bus.
Some Heathrow staff were dressed like park wardens for the day and a bearskin guard was stationed at ticket presentation.
Athletes were invited to record their favourite memory of the Games and hang it on a tree which will be displayed at Heathrow.
Athletes' comments will be collated into books that will be presented to the 1,300 Heathrow volunteers who have helped with arrivals and departures.
Departing athletes were expected to leave with more than three bags per person, including outsize sporting equipment.
To make departures easier and to cope with the large number of bags, athletes used check-in and bag-drop facilities at the Olympic Village yesterday.
Heathrow operator BAA said today that more than 5,000 bags were successfully collected at the Olympic Village and processed through Heathrow's baggage system overnight to relieve the pressure on the airport today.
The temporary terminal is part of Heathrow's £20 million investment in handling London 2012 passengers. Equivalent in size to three Olympic swimming pools, the terminal has 31 check-in desks and seven security lanes to help deal with the high number of departures. After three days of operation the terminal will be decommissioned and the site returned to its original use as a staff car park.
No aircraft depart from the Games terminal. Instead, athletes were being taken on an airside coach to their final departure point where they mingled with regular passengers as they waited for their flight.
Athletes were be clapped into each terminal by a guard of honour made up of Heathrow volunteers.
BAA chief executive Colin Matthews said: "We want to continue the feel-good factor of the Games at the airport on our busiest day for departing athletes. I hope our Games terminal park will bring a smile to passengers' faces and contribute to final happy memories of London."
He went on: ""Olympic Village check-in went according to plan yesterday with thousands of bags being processed at Heathrow overnight.
"Today's departures present a fresh challenge with new facilities like the Games Terminal being used for the first time. We have been preparing for seven years to deliver a farewell of which Great Britain can be proud."