Airport on its marks for departures

A British Airways jet taking off at Heathrow Photo: PA

Bosses of Heathrow are on their marks to cope with one of the busiest-ever days at the west London airport when thousands of athletes fly off after the end of the Olympics.

A specially-constructed Games terminal will be in operation on Monday when 116,000 people in total will be leaving Heathrow.

The Games terminal is for athletes only, with around 6,000 departing from Heathrow on Monday.

The size of three Olympic swimming pools, the special terminal has 31 check-in desks and seven security lanes.

Athletes will have the opportunity to check-in their bags at the Olympic Village in east London.

Athletes are expected to depart with more than three bags per person, including outsize sporting equipment.

Their bags will be taken to Heathrow and be processed through the baggage system overnight on Sunday to relieve the pressure on the airport on Monday.

Athletes will arrive at the Games terminal on Monday by coach, where they will be treated to a special London-themed send-off, the details of which Heathrow operator BAA is keeping a closely-guarded secret.

No aircraft will depart from the Games terminal. Instead, athletes will take an airside coach to their final departure point where they will mingle with regular passengers as they wait for their flight.

Athletes will be clapped into each terminal by a guard of honour made up of Heathrow volunteers.

After three days of operation the terminal will be decommissioned and the site returned to its original use as a staff car park.

BAA chief executive Colin Matthews said: "Heathrow is proud of the part we have played in making London 2012 a success. We hope that Olympic athletes, spectators and officials enjoyed a great welcome to London.

"Olympic 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 the whole country can be proud."