ORGANISERS of the Commonwealth Games were unbowed tonight after a groundswell of opposition to their plan to demolish Glasgow’s notorious Red Road flats during the opening ceremony, describing it as a way to “showcase” the city’s “regeneration and housing revolution”.
Over 2,000 people have signed a petition calling on the initiative to be abandoned, warning that razing tower blocks would not be a “positive international spectacle”.
Less than 48 hours notorious, the chorus of criticism included figures from across the political spectrum, as well as community figures, charities, artists and architects.
However, a spokeswoman for Glasgow 2014 last night insisted the project would “make the most of what was already planned in terms of scheduled demolition”, as well as telling the city’s changing story to a potential television audience of more than a billion people.
The initiative will see nearly 900 homes evacuated, as five of the six remaining structures in Balarnock are demolished simultaneously in just 15 seconds on the evening of 23 July during the Games curtain-raiser to be broadcast live on a giant screen in Celtic Park.
Eileen Gallagher, an independent director on the Glasgow 2014 board and chair of the ceremonies, culture and Queen’s baton relay committee, said the demolition would be a “celebration” of the “tenacity,” “genuine warmth” and “ambitions” of Glaswegians, while Gordon Matheson, leader of Glasgow City Council, said it would “all but mark the end of high-rise living in the area.” However, opponents of the initiative point out that Asylum-seekers will continue to be housed in the site’s remaining tower block.
The petition, brought by Carolyn Leckie, the former Scottish Socialist Party MSP, calls on Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government to “ensure Red Road is demolished with dignity, not as entertainment”.
Addressed to Shona Robison, the minister for Commonwealth Games and sport, the petition had last night garnered over 2,000 signatures.
Ms Leckie said: “I hope there’s a U-turn and the quicker the better. The longer this goes on, the harder it will be for them to
regain kudos for the whole event.”
Tom Greatrex, the Labour MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West and shadow energy minister, told The Scotsman that although he could see what the organisers were “trying to get across”, he found the proposal a “bit distasteful personally”.
Neil Baxter, secretary of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (Rias), said: “I think it would demonstrate a degree of political doggedness akin to lunacy if they proceed with this.
“If Mr Matheson listens to the voice of the people, as he argues, he has to act.”
Amid speculation over the genesis of the demolition idea, a spokeswoman for Glasgow 2014 said it was a “collaborative process” which emerged from the “creative teams within the organising committee”.
Those teams, she explained, included Glaswegian and Scottish artists as well as “internationally recognised ceremonies experts”. All such decisions, she said, were reviewed and approved by the main Glasgow 2014 board.
A spokeswoman said Glasgow Housing Association will foot the bill for the plan.