London 2012 Gets Ready to Welcome the World
A group of key experts addressed the conference about the importance of airports and other ports of entry which can form visitors and athletes’ impression of the Games. For many athletes, officials, spectators, media and tourists coming to the UK, the impression of the country and the host city will be based on their experience at the airport/port of arrival. So it is important that their experience is managed for maximum convenience and minimum disruption to others.
The seminar was addressed by London Organising Committee Chief Executive Paul Deighton, by Wilben Short, Head of Transport, Olympian Jonathan Edwards, Paralympian Clare Strange, Simon Clegg from the British Olympic Association, and Phil Lane of the British Paralympic Association. Other speakers included Danny Sloan, Director of Planning for the British Airports Authority (BAA) and Keith Jowett , Chief Executive of the Airport Operators’ Association.
Paul Deighton, Chief Executive of London 2012 said “First and last impressions of a country are so important and can set the tone for the whole Games experience. The Games are the chance for airports and other ports of entry to showcase London and the UK to the world. It is important for us all to work together to plan how to welcome the extra arrivals that the Games will bring as well as dealing with the challenge of keeping the travel experience fast and efficient for all other travellers. The ports of entry experience is crucial in the delivery of a memorable Games in 2012.”
An Arrivals and Departures working group has already been established with representation from all elements of the industry to start planning and co-ordinating responses throughout the UK.
Danny Sloan, Director of Planning at BAA said: “The welcome we give people is vital. By 2012 there will be 216 million passengers travelling through the airports around London alone. The additional Games time passengers is an extra 600,000. This does not sound a lot, but they are a client group with some challenging needs such as the large amount of sports equipment and baggage that they carry. There will be multiple entry points to the UK, and we must ensure that there is a consistent approach to these challenges to ensure that a high level of service is provided, giving a positive impression of the country to all our visitors, and encouraging them to come back again in the future.”
Simon Clegg from the BOA and Phil Lane of the BPA also shared their experiences from leading the British teams at previous Games. They encouraged the industry to work with the Organising Committee to deliver a “gold medal service” that would make the UK proud and leave a legacy that will boost tourism in years to come.
Olympian Jonathan Edwards said “Arriving at the host airport is a critical point in an athlete’s Olympic and Paralympic experience.” Paralympic Wheelchair Basketball player Clare Strange also described the challenges that wheelchair users face during the arrivals and departures process.
“We want to stay ahead of the game in terms of planning now and providing an excellent service for all visitors coming to London 2012” commented Wilben Short, Head of Transport at the Organising Committee. “We look forward to working with all our partners to tackle the challenges ahead.”
The seminar was attended by representatives from the Department of Transport, the Civil Aviation Authority, airport and other port operators, HM Revenue and Customs, National Air Traffic Services.