London 2012: Airports handle Olympic Games exodus

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Media captionUSA athlete: "There has been a lot of trading of souvenirs"

Thousands of athletes, officials and spectators left London on Monday after the Olympic Games came to an end.

Heathrow airport said about 116,000 passengers in total left on Monday, and a Games terminal, resembling a London park, saw about 8,000 athletes depart.

About 70,000 passengers in total, including 220 Chinese athletes, departed from Gatwick airport.

Canadian, Polish and Austrian athletes were among the first to leave by air, while others departed by train.

The Greek team left from Stansted airport, and the Lithuanian and Serbian teams were scheduled to leave from the Essex hub on Monday afternoon.

The Australian team are leaving from Stansted in a specially painted Qantas Boeing 747.

Image caption The Belgian team were among the athletes departing London by train

Athletes from the Netherlands, Belgium and France left by Eurostar train from St Pancras International station.

Two specially-chartered trains took passengers to Paris and Brussels, where the Dutch team were due to travel on to the Netherlands.

A Gatwick spokesman said the airport handled 100 Games-related flights on Monday, with nearly 1,000 Games-related passengers, including athletes and officials.

Heathrow's temporary terminal is part of a £20m investment in handling London 2012 passengers.

In addition to the 31 check-in desks, seven security lanes helped deal with the high number of departures.

Bearskin guards

The terminal will be decommissioned after three days and returned to its normal use as a staff car park as most of the athletes and visitors are expected to leave during this time.

Image caption Athletes are being asked to record their favourite memory and hang it on a tree displayed in the terminal

A spokesman for Heathrow said regular passengers should check-in as normal three hours before long-haul flights and two hours before European flights.

Among the athletes passing through was gold medal-winner Chris Brown, who was part of the winning Bahamas men's 4x400 metres team.

"These Games... have been great. London has staged a fantastic Olympics," he said.

"Everything has worked out well today (Monday) and this special terminal is a bit of fun."

The Heathrow spokesman said: "We wanted to continue the feelgood factor of the Games at the airport on our busiest day for departing athletes."

A spokeswoman later said Monday's departures had run very smoothly.

Heathrow introduced a check-in and bag-drop at the Olympic Village and volunteers will form a guard of honour to cheer athletes off at the airport.

More than 5,000 bags were collected at the Olympic Village on Sunday and processed overnight ready for Monday's exodus.

The Games terminal resembles a London park with plants, park benches, trees, and model stags.

It also features iconic designs such as a red telephone box and a Routemaster bus.

Some Heathrow staff are dressed as park wardens and a bearskin guard is stationed at the ticket presentation stand.

Athletes are being invited to record their favourite memory of London 2012 and hang it on a tree which will be displayed at the airport.

The BBC's Jon Kay, at Heathrow, said American runner Manteo Mitchell, who ran the last 200m of the Olympic men's 4x400m relay heats with a broken left leg, recorded his favourite memory as: "God allowing me to have the strength to finish the race."

Once they have checked in, the athletes are being transferred airside from the temporary terminal at Heathrow by coach to a regular departure point.

A spokeswoman for Gatwick said extra staff were on duty and it was well prepared for Monday's departures, which had passed off without a hitch.

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