Olympics 2012: Back to reality for the British after Summer Games
Some 116,000 people were expected to leave Monday from Heathrow, London’s busiest airport, in an exodus that includes some 6,000 athletes and Prime Minister David Cameron going on his vacation. Heathrow usually handles about 95,000 passengers a day.
Heathrow opened a temporary Olympic terminal with 31 check-in desks to accommodate departing athletes and support staff.
The special terminal, designed like a park, was filled with iconic British items, including a red phone booth and double-decker bus. Some Heathrow staff wore bearskin hats, much like the guards at Buckingham Palace. The terminal will go back to being a parking lot in three days.
In the months leading up to the Olympics, the government was criticized for failing to provide enough staff at immigration points, causing massive backlogs.
Some travelers, however, were pleasantly surprised Monday.
Throughout the capital there were signs that the party was over. In central London's government district, workers using forklift trucks, cherry pickers and small cranes began dismantling the temporary Olympic beach volleyball arena on Horseguards Parade.
It will take several weeks to take down the towering bleachers, which are next door to the prime minister’s residence at No. 10 Downing Street.
Sand cleared away from the venue will be used to construct 36 new beach volleyball courts in southern England, part of efforts to boost the sport’s profile in Britain.
Despite fears the games would lead to traffic gridlock, many commuters steered clear after a campaign encouraging people to use public transport. Traffic remained lighter than normal in London on Monday.
London Mayor Boris Johnson said the city’s public transport system had coped well. Ridership on London Underground — also known as the Tube — was up 30 percent, numbers doubled on the overground Docklands Light Railway, and a citywide bike-hire scheme broke a record with 46,000 bikes rented on a single day.
Commuters reported few problems Monday morning.