Heathrow Set for Busiest Day as 8,000 Athletes Leave London

London’s Heathrow airport will operate a special terminal for 8,000 departing Olympians as the busiest day for Games travel brings 22 percent more passengers than usual through Europe’s biggest hub.

About 6,000 athletes will leave the airport tomorrow through a temporary terminal as big as three Olympic swimming pools, operator BAA Ltd. said in a statement on its website. An estimated 116,000 people will depart from Heathrow tomorrow, compared with 95,000 on an average day and a record 123,000 on July 29, 2011, according to the statement.

Heathrow spent seven years and 20 million pounds ($31 million) preparing to handle 80 percent of Olympics visitors, according to the statement. The temporary terminal, along with 1,000 volunteers and special luggage procedures at the Olympic Village, will help the athletes pass through the airport over the next three days, said BAA, owned by Ferrovial SA.

“Olympic departures present a fresh challenge with new facilities like the Games Terminal being used for the first time,” Colin Matthews, chief executive officer of BAA, said in the statement. “We have been preparing for seven years to deliver a farewell of which the whole country can be proud.”

Regular passengers shouldn’t see longer waits than usual, according to the statement. They should arrive three hours early for long-distance trips and two hours before departure time for flights to Europe.

Gatwick, Roads

Gatwick airport, the U.K.’s second-busiest, is expecting 70,000 departures tomorrow, about 15 percent more than a typical August day, Sarah Baranowski, a Gatwick spokeswoman, said by phone. While the airport near London isn’t handling as many athletes as Heathrow, the biggest challenge will be processing irregular and oversize bags holding their equipment, she said.

Road restrictions, known as the Olympic Route Network, will end at midnight on Aug. 14, Transport for London said today in a statement. London’s 30 miles (48 kilometers) of games lanes will be taken out of use before the morning rush hour on Aug. 15 and all physical measures on the 109-mile network will be removed by the next day, according to the statement.

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