Glasgow 2014: Red Road flats demolition dropped from opening

 
Red Road flats Five of the six remaining tower blocks would have been demolished during the opening ceremony

Commonwealth Games organisers have dropped the demolition of the Red Road flats from the Glasgow 2014 opening ceremony.

Five of the blocks were to be brought down at the start of the Games in July.

The plan proved controversial, with an online petition against the demolition gathering more than 17,000 signatures.

Glasgow 2014 said opinions being expressed about "safety and security" meant the destruction of the flats would not now feature in the opening.

Police Scotland said that because of these concerns the security director for the Games asked the chairman of the Glasgow 2014 board to reconsider the plan.

Start Quote

Opinions have been expressed which change the safety and security context”

End Quote David Grevemberg Glasgow 2014 chief executive

The 30-storey structures were built in the mid 1960s and the original eight tower blocks housed more than 4,000 people. The demolitions will now be rescheduled.

Risk fears

Opponents had questioned the message the demolition would send and described the plans as insensitive to former residents as well as asylum seekers currently living in the sixth block.

In a statement, Games chief executive David Grevemberg said: "We made it clear from the outset the absolute priority was safety and that this event would only happen during the opening ceremony if it was safe to do so.

"Over the past few days it has become clear that opinions have been expressed which change the safety and security context.

Analysis

The question now is why there wasn't further consultation with the local residents and the people of Glasgow before this plan to demolish the flats was made.

The other question is why is Glasgow 2014 announcing this on the eve of a milestone tomorrow, 100 days to go until the start of the Games.

This is news you'd think they would not be looking to release ahead of this milestone.

When the announcement was first made some people viewed it as a little strange but perhaps a stroke of genius.

Others found it completely bizarre and crass. Now that the plan's been withdrawn, the furore surrounding this issue will continue.

"Glasgow 2014, Games partners and key stakeholders, including Police Scotland and Glasgow Housing Association, are not prepared to allow what was proposed to be a positive act of commemoration to create risk for all concerned, including the communities of north east Glasgow."

'Dignity' call

Former Scottish Socialist MSP Carolyn Leckie, who launched the petition, had been due to meet with Glasgow 2014 representatives to discuss the plan on Tuesday.

The petition called for the flats to be brought down with "dignity" and not as part of a ceremony spectacle.

Reacting to the decision, Ms Leckie told BBC Scotland's Sunday Politics Scotland programme: "It's the sensible decision. Because the organisers have changed their minds, presumably there's been some consensus developed behind the scenes between all the arms involved in this.

"It's an indication that people power can be effective."

Start Quote

It's an indication that people power can be effective”

End Quote Carolyn Leckie Petition organiser

Ms Leckie said she was not worried about the reason for the U-turn, adding: "I'm just really glad they've changed their mind, they have listened and responded.

"I think, as expressed by more than 17,000 people, that it was distasteful and disrespectful to beam the demolition to a billion people as entertainment."

The event was to have be shown live on a massive screen at the Celtic Park ceremony and to a huge TV audience.

Glasgow 2014 said the demolition was a matter for Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) and would take place as part of their ongoing regeneration programme.

However, Mr Grevemberg said Glasgow 2014 would still dedicate an element of the opening to telling the story of Glasgow's social history.

Artists impression of opening ceremony The demolition was to have been shown on a massive screen at the opening

Police Scotland Det Ch Con Steve Allen, security director for the Games, said: "It became clear that the plan generated a range of strong opinions which changed the safety and security context.

Start Quote

All we're arguing about is one aspect of the opening ceremony”

End Quote Alex Salmond First Minister

"I asked the chairman of the board to reconsider its decision in order to take account of the resources and scale of the operation that would now be required, and one which would be out of proportion to the friendly atmosphere sought by the board for the Commonwealth Games."

A GHA spokesman said: "As we have stated all along, public safety is our absolute priority. The demolitions will be rescheduled and we will continue to liaise and take the advice of the police and our demolition contractor."

Monday marks 100 days until the start of the Games.

First Minister Alex Salmond told BBC Scotland: "I don't think the safety issue is face-saving, it's very important.

"But there's also the point about unifying - we're 100 days from the Commonwealth Games, we're about to have the greatest celebration that Scotland has seen of sport, and culture is part of that. And all we're arguing about is one aspect of the opening ceremony.

"This is one of the few Games in recent history which is coming in on time and on budget."

Local Labour MSP Patricia Ferguson said she was relieved by the decision and the Conservative sports spokeswoman Liz Smith described it as a "victory for common sense".

 

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