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Glasgow's games to open with a bang

Is plan to demolish tower blocks during Commonwealth Games opening ceremony a stroke of genius or a crass stunt?
Last modified: 4 Apr 2014 02:11

The opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games is Glasgow's chance to put on a show for the world.

The event at football stadium Celtic Park, on July 23rd, will be broadcast live to a television audience of more than one billion people, with organisers promising something explosive, celebrating Glasgow by blowing it up.

A giant screen is being erected in the stadium so that the athletes and spectators can watch as five massive tower blocks are demolished and the city's skyline is changed forever.

Eileen Gallagher, Chairwoman of the Glasgow 2014 ceremonies, says that, "Glasgow is proving it is a city that is proud of its history, but doesn't stand still".

The message is that it will be a dramatic and exciting visual spectacle that symbolises Glasgow's renewal.

Others see it as a crass attempt to get a big bang with somebody else's buck.

Former Socialist Member of Scotland's Parliament Carolyn Leckie said on Twitter, "At first I thought it must still be April Fool’s Day when I heard about the Red Road flats."

She has launched a petition to get the high rises, which are no longer occupied, demolished with dignity.

Symbol of hope

The Red Road flats have loomed over the city for nearly 50 years. The 31-storey blocks were once the tallest in Europe, a project on a grand scale to provide homes for nearly 5,000 people.

For Glaswegians, the towers represented a new way of life. It wasn't just that they offered a pilot's eye view of the city. Most of the tenants were getting their first ever inside toilet and bathroom.

This made the Red Road a symbol of hope for the future. The scheme even had its own underground bingo hall and social club with seats for hundreds of players.

By the 1980s, nobody in Glasgow was winning. The foundations of the Red Road flats were cracked by unemployment and poverty.

Alison Irvine captured this changing social landscape in her novel 'The Road is Red'. The area's dramatic architecture also inspired Lynne Ramsey's Bafta-winning feature film Ratcatcher.

The Red Road is part of Glasgow's past, not its future. The first of the tower blocks was demolished in June 2012. When the Commonwealth Games is over only one will remain, housing asylum seekers from countries like Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.

While Glasgow celebrates the opening of its Commonwealth Games, these people will be evacuated from their homes and moved a safe distance away from the explosion. At the very least, I hope they are offered tickets to the show.

Follow Andrew McFadyen on Twitter: @apmcfadyen