London's conquering heroes head home as Paralympics prepare for another sell-out

 

They came, they saw and many of them conquered. But all good things must come to an end. Yesterday Britain began bidding farewell to the 10,000 athletes who had called Stratford their home as organisers began the herculean task of readying the Olympic Park in time for the Paralympics.

The exodus began early as thousands of athletes flocked to a specially constructed terminal at Heathrow airport while others block-booked seats on the Eurostar to take them across the Channel. Even as they flew out, Paralympians began arriving as London prepares to host another major sporting event.

Excitement generated by the Olympic Games has rubbed off on the Paralympics, which were first held in London in 1948. Organisers announced yesterday that they are expecting the first sellout in the Games' history with 2.1 million of the 2.5 million tickets snapped up by the public so far.

"Our aim is to sell every single ticket," said Sir Philip Craven, president of the International Paralympic Committee. "It would be fitting when the Paralympic Movement returns to its spiritual birthplace in three weeks' time it does so in front of packed, sold-out venues."

Over the coming days venues will need to be reconfigured to hold a variety of Paralympian sports. Hundreds of buses will be converted to make them wheelchair-accessible as the Athletes Village prepares to welcome another 4,200 competitors from 165 nations from 20 August onwards.

Games chief Lord Coe praised the "spirit of generosity" demonstrated by the British people as officials called on the country to make one final push for the Paralympics in two weeks' time.

The mass departures came as Lord Moynihan, chair of the British Olympic Authority and one of the chief architects of Team GB's most successful Games ever, announced he was stepping down. The ex-Tory MP and Sports minister had been in charge of BOA since 2005 with the express mandate of overhauling it in the run-up to London 2012 but felt it was time to hand over to someone new.

Some of the sleep-deprived sporting heroes who arrived at Heathrow at dawn yesterday may have wondered if their check-in process was some bizarre continuation of the Closing Ceremony. The athletes were ushered into a big shed by three actors wearing guardmen's uniforms.

The security search area was dressed up in rustic red brick, and led to a waiting area supposed to resemble a London park – with plastic grass and benches. To ensure the peak day for "Games family" departures ran smoothly, Heathrow built this temporary terminal beside the cargo sheds on the airfield.

To avoid contaminating the normal check-in areas, luggage was picked up from the Village and processed separately. Colin Matthews, chief executive of Heathrow's owner, BAA, said: "We have been preparing for seven years to deliver a farewell of which the whole country can be proud."

As they prepared to board their planes, athletes embraced, signed flags and attached scrawled messages as paper "leaves" on an artificial tree. Aimable Bayingana, who led the Rwanda cycling team, signed off with: "It was a nice journey."

Four of Congo's team go missing

Four members of the Democratic Republic of Congo's Olympic team have gone missing in London, it was revealed yesterday, taking the number of African athletes to have vanished during the Games to 11.

Cedric Mandembo, who lost his only judo match in 49 seconds, along with judo coach Ibula Masengo, boxing trainer Blaise Bekwa and national technical director of athletics Guy Nkita disappeared shortly after Sunday's Closing Ceremony, UN-sponsored Radio Okapi said. Seven Cameroonian athletes also went missing, including five boxers, a swimmer and a football player. The athletes will not infringe immigration laws until their visas expire in November. The Home Office declined to comment.

Arts & Entertainment
tvGrace Dent on TV
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Life & Style
The exterior of a central London Angus Steakhouse
food + drink
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Sport
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain drives in the rain during the qualifying session of the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix in Shanghai
sport
Extras
indybestFake it with 10 best self-tanners
Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
peopleOrlando Bloom the pin-up hero is making a fresh start
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Arts & Entertainment
filmLife for Leslie Mann's can be challenging sometimes
Voices
For music lovers: John Cusack with his vinyl collection in 'High Fidelity'
voices...but don't forget rest of the year
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
Environment
People are buying increasing numbers of plants such as lavender to aid the insects
environment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit