Europe's busiest airport is preparing to get even busier, as Heathrow Airport is gearing up for the start of the London 2012 Olympics on 27 July. Giant Olympic rings were unveiled at Heathrow Terminal 5, as a military marching band performed for all international arrivals. At 12m wide, the rings are the same size as a double decker bus, and will be on display throughout the games to welcome the many athletes and tourists who will fly into the airport.
Paul Deighton, CEO of London Games, spoke of the impression they wanted to give the millions of people across the world travelling to the UK.
"So, 37 days to go, we are ready to welcome the world. We have over 200 nations coming here to compete later on in July and this is the place where we are going to be creating our first impression as well as our last impression, so we thought what better location for these spectacular rings than welcoming people when they arrive here in London."
There are concerns that London’s already heavily congested transport infrastructure will struggle to cope with the increased demand as an extra 600,000 people are expected to descend on the capital this summer.
Currently operating at 99.2 per cent capacity, Heathrow have already announced that a pop-up terminal will run from 13-15 August to cope with all the athletes departing from London after the end of the games.
Nick Cole, in charge of the airport’s games operation, said that he feels they are ready to take on the extra demand.
"We are going to have some very challenging days across Games. We are going to have to process more bags and more passengers than we ever have before on certain days. But with everything we've put in place, the additional baggage facilities we've got, the Games Terminal and a thousand volunteers, I am confident but not complacent that we can meet those challenges," he said.
As well as volunteers, the Home Office has provided 500 staff to assist with monitoring the extra thousands of people as they pass through immigration. The moves come after numerous complaints of lengthy queues for those passing through Heathrow immigration, with some passengers reported to have waited several hours at border control.
Written by Alfred Joyner