London: Basking in post-Olympic glory, Britain succumbed to reality on Monday with commuters venturing back to work and Heathrow Airport bracing for one of its busiest days ever.
Some 116,000 people are expected to leave — an exodus that includes some 6,000 athletes and Prime Minister David Cameron for his long-awaited summer vacation.
"I have so many memories of these games," said 27-year-old Esther Lofgren, who won gold for the US Rowing team.
"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."
Heathrow opened a special Olympic terminal with 31 check-in desks to accommodate departing athletes and support staff.
The special terminal, designed like a London park, was filled with iconic items such as a red telephone box and a double-decker bus. Some Heathrow staff were stationed at a ticket counter wearing bearskin hats, much like the guards at Buckingham Palace.
The special terminal will be decommissioned after three days and will go back to being a staff car park.
"London has staged a fantastic Olympics," said 33-year-old Chris Brown of the Bahamas who won gold in the men`s 4x400 meter relay.
Heathrow, which deals with about 95,000 passengers a day, was criticized before the Olympics for failing to provide enough staff at immigration points.
But many tourists arriving at Heathrow`s regular terminals Monday were pleasantly surprised.
"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."