Opening blow-down leading to bust-up
April 4, 2014 by Grace Franklin
An explosive launch to the Commonwealth Games has brought more fireworks with it.
The Red Road tower blocks in Sighthill will be demolished LIVE during the opening ceremony and seen by 1.5 billion people around the world. Those in Celtic Park, where the opening ceremony will take place, will see the blow-down on the enormous 100 metre-wide screen which will occupy the entire south stand.
Eileen Gallagher Chair of the Ceremonies, Culture and the Queen’s Baton Relay Committee: ‘By sharing the final moments of the Red Road flats with the world as part of the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, Glasgow is proving it is a city that is proud of its history but doesn’t stand still. Glasgow’s story is always one of its people; their tenacity, their genuine warmth, their ambitions. Marking the end of Red Road is very much a celebration of all of those things.’
Commented Councillor Gordon Matheson, Leader of Glasgow City Council: ‘The opening ceremony will be a ceremony like no other, showcasing our city’s unique style and personality and with our people and communities at its very heart. We are going to wow the world, with the demolition of the Red Road flats set to play a starring role. Their demolition will all but mark the end of high-rise living in the area and is symbolic of the changing face of Glasgow, not least in terms of our preparations for the Games.’
Gordon Sloan, Chairman of Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) said: ‘The Red Road flats were very popular in their day and hold a special place in many people’s hearts. But they are no longer viable as modern homes and GHA made the decision to demolish them as part of the wider regeneration of the North of Glasgow. We will bring them down in strictly controlled conditions with the expertise of our contractor Safedem, during the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony.’
David Zolkwer, Head of Ceremonies & Artistic Director for Glasgow 2014 said: ‘By sharing the blow-down with the rest of the world, I hope it will be seen as the noble, respectful and celebratory send-off that it is intended to be.’
Shona Robison, Minister for the Commonwealth Games said: ‘This spectacular start to the Games within the opening ceremony will send a strong signal about the power of the Commonwealth Games. For many people, these Games are more than sport. They are the chance for regeneration, renewal and having better places to live and work.’
But Neil Baxter, secretary of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, said: ‘It’s the oddest thing. They will knock down five blocks but leave one which houses asylum seekers. What does that say?’
The Red Road flats were ‘a place of despair’ and should never have been built, said Robina Qureshi, Director of the charity Positive Action in Housing (PAiH) ‘Through our work we have regularly visited refugee and asylum seeker families and seen the misery for everyone. This is where the Sehryk family committed suicide from the balcony of their 15th floor flat on the day they were to be made destitute by the UK Borders Agency. The windows all had so-called suicide prevention netting but they managed to tear it away. Those flats were not meant for human beings, they were just great big filing cabinets of humans living in misery or despair.
‘Before the demolition programme the Council tried to market them to university students, then professionals, but it didn’t work. No one wanted to stay there. And I guess that’s how the planners wanted it.
‘Then thousands of asylum seekers came in from war torn countries like Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan in 2001 as part of a five year contract between the Council and the Home Office. They had no choice in housing. Red Road was one of the places where they were effectively dumped out of the way while Glasgow City Council collected the council tax payments and rent from Westminster.
‘What is ironic is that the Commonwealth Committee in Glasgow denied asylum seekers the right to volunteer for the games.’
She went on: ‘For the Olympic games, they light a torch. Here in Glasgow, they celebrate the start of the Commonwealth Games by blowing up the Red Road flats. It is highly insensitive and jars with the senses.
‘Sports men and women in the Commonwealth Games may well be claiming asylum here because of the threat of torture or denial of certain freedoms in their own countries. The Commonwealth Committee clearly thinks it’s a great idea to blow up the high flats but has no concept of the misery the Red Road flats caused to thousands of people from Glasgow and across the world. No change there then.’