Heathrow Airport braces for Olympics

Heathrow Airport braces for Olympics

Published Jan. 19, 2012 12:10 a.m. ET

London's Heathrow Airport will adopt special measures to cope with a higher-than-normal number of guns entering Britain during the Olympics, officials said.

In a document detailing the airport's preparations before the London 2012 Olympics, Heathrow said it expects increased numbers of firearms to pass through the airport because of shooting events at the games.

There will be 390 athletes carrying 780 firearms in for the Olympic Games and 140 athletes with 200 firearms for the Paralympic Games, the airport said.

''To manage the extra demand we will be putting in place a system to ensure the firearms are safely transported to the appropriate venue,'' according to the document.


That means once competitors arrive and have gone through customs, firearms will be collected and transported by an approved handler to vehicles of the London 2012 organizers. The guns will be secured, then will be transported to the Royal Artillery Barracks, where shooting events take place, the document explained.

Then, on the day firearms are issued to athletes, the U.K. Border Agency will perform checks against paperwork within the Royal Artillery Barracks armory, it added.

Heathrow said its security strategy during the Games is built around existing security processes at the airport and that it has studied how previous Olympic-host airports have coped with the unique operational demand brought on by a Games.

''At present the Games represents no change to the usual risks, although on the busiest days it is likely additional and specialist resources will be deployed to enable a prompt response if needed,'' the document said.

The day after the Olympic Games close - Aug. 13 - is expected to be the busiest 24 hours in Heathrow's history, officials said. The airport is forecasting 35 percent more baggage for departing flights than a normal day - or 203,000 items compared with 150,000.

Nick Cole, Heathrow's head of Olympic and Paralympic planning, described the London 2012 Games as ''a massive challenge'' and noted the airport, Europe's busiest, ''already operates close to capacity.''

''Every part of the airport is working together to ensure we can give the athletes a warm welcome and ensure all passengers enjoy the atmosphere,'' he said.

Total passengers arriving for the Olympic Games at Heathrow - athletes, spectators, heads of state, media and more - are expected to top 59,000, Heathrow said. More than 21,000 are expected for the Paralympic Games.

Ensuring things go smoothly during and around the Games - which run from July 27 to August 12 - is a priority and the airport said it will be running drills and testing new procedures, some with the help of athletes and VIPS, to make sure all goes well.

Heathrow said in October it was creating a special terminal for Olympic athletes and coaches to fly out of Britain after the end of the games.

It estimated that around 10,000 athletes and support staff will go through the ''Special Games Terminal'' in the three days after the closing ceremony on Aug. 12, 2012.

The temporary terminal will only be used by Olympic athletes and their staff but is designed to minimize disruption for all passengers traveling through Heathrow at that time.

Heathrow said it expects the net cost of the Olympics to its owner, BAA, to be upwards of 20 million pounds ($30.9 million).