Paralympians welcomed 'with smile'

The first big rush of Paralympic athletes has arrived at Heathrow airport, with competitors pleased with their welcome.

"I have been very well looked after and everyone is smiling," said SKUD 18 yachting competitor Jan Apel, 61, from Auckland, New Zealand.

Ms Apel, who has spinal cord problems, flew in from Auckland via Singapore, with her co-sailor Tim Dempsey, 41, who has muscular dystrophy.

Arriving at Heathrow's Terminal 3, Ms Apel said: "I enjoyed watching the Olympics and am looking forward to taking part in the Paralympics."

British Airways said Wednesday would be its busiest day for Paralympic arrivals at Heathrow. The first of the Paralympic Games lanes are also coming into force.

BA is flying in Paralympic teams from 25 countries including ParalympicsGB who are thought to be arriving at Heathrow next week from their training camps abroad.

Along with the athletes, BA is also transporting around 300 wheelchairs and sporting equipment such as firearms, weapon bags, physiotherapist cases, bike boxes, tandem bikes, bow and arrows, and hand cycles.

The first Paralympic Games lane is between junctions 3 and 2 on the M4 which takes traffic from Heathrow into central London. It will be in operation each day as needed from 5am to 10pm, with "ordinary" traffic able to use it outside these times.

The M4 lane is part of a much smaller Games lane operation than for the main Olympics with just 8.7 miles of special lanes for the Paralympics, which start next Wednesday and end on September 9.

Apart from the M4 lane, the Paralympic Route Network will not come into force until the Games start. It will be focused on the City of London where the International Paralympic Committee and the world's media will be based and on venues in east London.