THE chairman of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games said yesterday that organisers were “looking at” the contentious plan to demolish the Red Road flats during the opening ceremony.
Lord Smith of Kelvin promised that the views of protesters would be taken into account.
Speaking to The Scotsman, Lord Smith appeared to leave the door open for a climbdown when he indicated that the plan was not yet a done deal.
Asked about the storm of protest that had greeted plans to blow up five tower blocks, the chairman of the Glasgow 2014 organising committee said he was “awaiting the outcome of various deliberations” on the proposal.
Lord Smith added: “I hear what people are saying and I know people are talking about it, so we will see.”
His remarks came as Games organisers agreed to meet the protesters behind a petition that has seen more than 10,000 people register their objection to the idea.
Lord Smith was keen to emphasise that as well as the dissenting voices there were Glaswegians in favour of the plan, which is
supposed to be a bold statement of the city’s commitment to regeneration.
Those against it, however, have argued that the live destruction of the 30-storey 1960s blocks is “insensitive” to former residents and the asylum-seekers living in a sixth block, which is to be destroyed later.
Lord Smith said there was a group of former residents, who thought the plan was a “very good idea”. He added: “There are
people, if you’ve heard some of the authentic Glasgow voices, who seem to think it is a good idea. But there are a number of people who think it is distasteful. I know our people are looking at it.”
Of those who were against it, Lord Smith said he had “great respect” for Alexander Stoddart, the Queen’s official sculptor in Scotland, who described the plans as a “hallmark of barbarism”.
Lord Smith said: “Clearly people’s feelings have to be taken into account and so on. But there are some people whose views do not seem to be getting quite the oxygen of publicity, who actually think it is a very good idea and not distasteful – not just because they like seeing buildings demolished or heritage destroyed – people who think, ‘hey, we are having the Commonwealth Games, these things were going to come down anyway’. But there are other people who feel pretty strongly and that it sends the wrong message.”
Yesterday, it emerged that the event’s organising committee will meet protesters led by Carolyn Leckie, the ex-Socialist MSP behind the petition, next week.
Meanwhile, Lord Smith said he was confident that the Games would come in within its overall budget as it emerged that estimates for the cost of the opening and closing ceremonies had risen by 50 per cent.
The budget set aside for the ceremonies now stands just short of £21 million – substantially more than the £14m predicted when a global events agency was recruited for the job in late 2012.
Details of the increased budget were contained in minutes of the 2014 strategic group. The extra cash is expected to come from a Games contingency fund that still contains £10m.
In total, £524m has been budgeted for the Games. Lord Smith said his previous experience as chairman of National Museums Scotland, which saw a new building brought in on budget, gave him confidence that the Games would see a similar outcome.
He added: “I am pretty confident we will come in on budget. The overall budget has not changed since 2009 – apart from the security, which was taken taken out of our hands.
“I don’t say these things lightly. I have been in business for a long time – things like the National Museum of Scotland, which was quite a complex building to put up and took a long time and I was running that. I have done quite a number of on-budget things in my life in business and I am confident it will come in on budget.”
Last night, a Glasgow 2014 spokeswoman said: “The debate around the decision to include the planned blow-down of five Red Road blocks within the opening ceremony of Glasgow 2014 demonstrates the passion people feel for Glasgow and how it is represented and we respect that a wide range of views will be expressed on this.
“The ceremonies create a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to share positive aspects of city and national life with a global audience. Over coming weeks we look forward to sharing further details of the variety of different stories our ceremonies will tell.”