Renovated international terminal opens
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- With just seven weeks to go before the busiest period in Australian aviation history -- the Olympic Games -- Sydney Airport's international terminal reopened Thursday after a multimillion-dollar facelift.
Airport authorities spent $351 million in a two-year project to transform the drab airport into a spacious and modern terminal they believe can cope with the massive influx of passengers associated with the Sept. 15-Oct. 1 games.
"Sydney Airport is ready," Finance Minister John Fahey said. "It will provide those first impressions of this country to tourists and it says proudly: 'Welcome to Sydney and welcome to Australia."'
Large windows offer spectacular views of Sydney's skyline. Blue carpets provide a colorful reflection of the city's sky, ocean and world- famous harbor, while light floor tiles are meant to symbolize its sandy beaches.
Covered walkways link the terminal with its parking lot, taxi stand and bus terminals. A recently opened rail link between the airport and downtown is accessible from inside the terminal.
New check-in counters were added, bringing the number to 192, and baggage-handling capacity was boosted. Now, up to 7,000 passengers per hour can pass through the airport, an increase of 35 percent.
Still, the terminal is still likely to be busy and crowded during the games, with airport authorities predicting up to 150,000 passengers passing through on peak days. Oct. 2, the day after the closing ceremony, is expected to be the busiest.
Authorities believe they can cope.
"We can meet all of the demands put on us by the Olympics," Fahey said.
The new terminal is key to increasing tourism in the coming years. Still, the Olympics, now 49 days away, were the main focus at the reopening.
Posters in the terminal proclaimed: "Welcome to the first arena of the Olympic Games."