London's Heathrow Airport is expected to set a new record for passenger numbers today (16 July) as it begins to welcome athletes to the London 2012 Olympic Games, which begin on 27 July. Meetings & Incentive Travel, arriving at the airport last evening, saw Olympic Games welcoming personnel sitting behind a dedicated bank of pink, branded booths complete with accreditation technology that will allow registered participants to register immediately on setting foot in the United Kingdom and go straight to the Olympic Village in East London.
Billed as the United Kingdom’s biggest peacetime transport challenge, the games will be partly responsible for the 16 July record of 236,955 passengers (121,239 arrivals, including 335 athletes already en route, and 115,716 departures), which will break the previous record of 31 July of 233,562. According to Olympics officials, the busiest day for arriving athletes will be 24 July when 1,262 athletes and coaches come through the airport.
In addition, in light of recent criticism of immigration queues at Heathrow, additional Border Force officers are staffing desks and increased baggage personnel also are on duty, especially as the athletes’ luggage could include canoes, pole vaults, bikes, javelins and guns with associated ammunition. Starting today, too, is a fleet of London 2012 coaches that will travel on dedicated lanes banned to regular drivers.
Nick Cole, head of Olympic and Paralympic planning at BAA Airports Ltd, said: “We have spent seven years preparing for this challenge. The Olympic and Paralympic Games are a marathon, not a sprint, for Heathrow. The airport has some major challenges ahead, including unprecedented numbers of departing Olympics passengers and bags on 13 August and Paralympic arrivals and departures in August and September.”