Back to reality: Britain bounces back after games
LONDON (AP) -- Basking in post-Olympic glory, Britain succumbed to reality Monday with commuters venturing to work and Heathrow Airport bracing for one of its busiest day as some 116,000 people are expected to leave the country now that the games are over.
Heathrow opened a special Olympic terminal with 31 check-in desks to deal with the crush of departures. Some 6,000 athletes started trickling into the terminal just after dawn, many of them greeted by volunteers wearing bearskin hats.
The terminal will be decommissioned after three days and will go back to being a staff car park. On a normal day, Heathrow deals with some 95,000 passengers.
Some of the athletes sported their medals as they checked in, including 27-year-old Esther Lofgren, who won gold for the United States rowing team.
"I have so many memories of these games besides getting this," she said, proudly holding her medal. "Getting to see the other athletes competing was just amazing. I got to see Usain Bolt run. And some of the random stuff, like hanging out in the dining hall meeting people from other countries, has just been amazing," Lofgren said.
"Everything has worked very well," said Sashi Singh, a retired businessman returning to his home in Fiji after coming to London for the games. "I didn't expect just to whizz through like this. Everyone has been so nice."
Traffic also returned to normal Monday -- many commuters steered clear of London during the games after government pleas to use public transport.
Some taxi drivers said they were ecstatic that the games were over. During the Olympics, many drivers were banned from using special lanes for athletes and officials.
"It's been brutal," said Shafiq Arjaz, a 43-year-old cab driver. "Customers were angry that we couldn't get them around. A lot of us barely broke even during the games."
National Olympics security coordinator for policing, Chris Allison, praised the games as a success.
Some 250 people were arrested, but the games ended without any terror incidents or disruptive protests.
"I'm very proud that we didn't have anything serious to deal with, but that was because of a lot of hard work done by a lot of people," Allison told The Associated Press. "The focus has been exactly where we wanted -- on the sport and not security."
But the security operation isn't over yet, Allison said.
Some 7,000 police officers will be working the Paralympic games, which don't end until September.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)