Heathrow handles record numbers for Olympics

Posted July 16, 2012, at 6:41 p.m.

LONDON — Athletes, officials and media from all over the world poured into Heathrow Airport on Monday for the London Olympics, the first wave of a record number of passengers expected to pass through Europe’s largest airport for the games that begin July 27.

Heathrow says athletes from 50 nations will touch down in what is being described as Britain’s biggest peacetime transport challenge. In all, the airport will handle some 236,955 passengers, breaking the previous daily record of 233,562 set in July 2011.

To cope with the deluge, Heathrow has enlisted some 1,000 volunteers to greet arrivals — 500 were working on Monday alone — and created special teams to deal with oversize items like Olympic javelins, bikes and other sports equipment. All wore bright pink to easily stand out.

Hundreds of immigration agents were also on the job to ease the long lines that have plagued the airport and there was an increased police presence, including sniffer dogs.

Rows of Olympic VIP buses then whisked teams and coaches to the Athletes Village in east London.

At least one athlete, two-time world 400-meter hurdles champion Kerron Clement, was less than complimentary in a tweet after the bus taking the American to the village had a hard time finding its destination.

Clement tweeted: “Um, so we’ve been lost on the road for 4hrs. Not a good first impression London.”

Clement, who won the world title in 2007 and 2009 before losing it to Britain’s Dai Greene in Daegu last year, is the defending Olympic silver medalist.

Heathrow usually handles 100,000 to 110,000 arrivals a day, but that was expected to swell to 121,239 on Monday, many of them Olympic VIPs, just 1,710 short of a previous incoming record on Sept. 4, 2011.

Another big arrival day will be July 25, two days before the opening ceremony.

“We have spent seven years preparing for the Games’ challenge. Now we are putting that planning into action with thousands of extra staff and volunteers on hand to welcome the world to London,” said Nick Cole, head of Heathrow’s Olympic operations.

Also Monday, an official a “Games Lane” was opened along the vital M-4 highway from Heathrow into central London for Olympic officials, VIPs and athletes. More “Games Lanes” will open in other parts of London as the Olympics approach.

London has four other airports, but Heathrow is the only airport where participants can get their Olympic credentials, so it will handle the bulk of Olympic arrivals.

The London Olympics start July 27 and end Aug. 12.

US study: Britain could win 62 medals

LONDON — A U.S. study has predicted that Britain will easily beat its goal of winning at least 48 medals including 25 golds at the London Olympics.

The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth released a study Monday which calculated that competing on home turf could be worth an additional 15 medals for the British team over the 47 it won at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The study’s predictions of a possible 62 British medals — giving the host nation the fourth-highest overall medal prediction — are in line with bets being offered by London’s usually savvy bookmakers.

Even better for the British athletes, Tuck underestimated the U.K. medal total in 2000, 2004 and 2008. If that trend continues, this year’s take could be even higher.

“The host effect is typically an important determinant of total and gold medal counts,” according to the study done by Tuck graduate Emily Williams. “The cheering crowds may make the difference in the sprint to the finish, provided the inevitable rain doesn’t dampen spirits too much!”

The Tuck study predicts the U.S. will top the medals table with 103 at the London Olympics, followed by China with 94 and Russia with 67 — all fewer than those nations produced in Beijing.

The study based its predictions on economic principles and variables such as income per person, population and prior Olympic success.

Beating the official British medal predictions would be a big boost for UK Sport, which has pumped 312 million ($487.9 million) of National Lottery funding into British Olympic sports since 2008.

Britain also won 50 Olympic-category medals in world championships in 2011.

British athletes are expected to do well in rowing, sailing, cycling and swimming at the London Olympics.

Britain eclipses US with biggest squad

LONDON — The biggest delegation at the London Olympics will be in red, white and blue.

The Union Jack variety, though.

The United States will have only the second-biggest squad in London, with 530 competitors, while the British will have 542 athletes.

The hosts are fielding competitors in all 26 sports as the Olympics return to the British capital for the third time.

Britain’s chef de mission Andy Hunt says “to have the largest delegation of all 204 competing nations at the London 2012 Olympic Games is a fantastic achievement.”

Russia will have the third-largest delegation followed by China.

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