THOUSANDS OF ATHLETES from around the world arrive in Heathrow today, in what will be the busiest for the airport for the Paralympic Games, which start next Wednesday, 29 August.
“It has been a mammoth operation,” said Andy Lord of British Airways.
“It is a privilege to fly thousands of athletes, their coaching teams and their sporting equipment into London for the Paralympic Games and follows on from the great service we delivered for the Olympic Games.”
As well as chasing medals in paralympic versions of the usual Olympic sports like athletics, cycling and swimming, the arriving competitors also represent sports the Paralympics has made its own, including Goalball, in which a ball with a bell inside is controlled by masked players and Murderball (also known as wheelchair rugby) – an often brutal mixture of basketball, ice hockey, handball and rugby.
With all those people travelling east from Heathrow, today sees the first outing for a Paralympic Games Lane – the one between junctions 3 and 2 on the M4.
The rest of the specially-marked lanes open for Paralympic business at the start of the Games and continue in operation until the event ends on 9 September.
London Mayor Boris Johnson hopes Londoners will make allowances for disrupted travel routes over the next few weeks.
“One of the things that made the Olympic Games such a great success was the way Londoners changed the way they usually travel, ” said Johnson.
“I want to thank every Londoner for that, and to ask everybody to plan ahead once more, so they can get out and enjoy everything London has to offer during the Paralympics and help keep our great city moving.”