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Games organisers defiant despite Red Road outrage

ORGANISERS of this summer's Commonwealth Games remain defiant about plans to demolish Glasgow's Red Road tower blocks as part of the opening ceremony, in the face of growing public opposition.

David Grevemberg, chief executive of Glasgow 2014, signalled that bosses remained committed to bringing down five of the six remaining tower blocks as part of the event, a move he said would reflect the city's authenticity, passion and ambition.

The intervention came as Scotland Office minister David Mundell added his voice to the row by saying the demolition could be seen as a negative.

Earlier this week, Glasgow 2014 chairman Lord Smith of Kelvin had hinted the plan could be revisited, and an online petition calling for the ­demolition during the ceremony to be abandoned had last night been signed by more than 14,000 people.

However, insiders insisted there were no plans to scrap the controversial proposal and that the statement from Glasgow 2014's most senior figure should be interpreted as a sign officials will be sticking to their guns.

Mr Grevemberg, in a letter to The Herald published today, said the ­planning of the opening and closing ­ceremonies had involved considered debate and many conversations over the past couple of years and that, while it had been decided in 2008 that the Red Road blocks would come down, it was felt there could be more than the usual, low-key approach to demolitions.

He added: "Bringing the Red Road story into the opening ceremony was [an] opportunity to commemorate an important part of Glasgow's social history in a unique and powerful way. This is not a story being created especially for the Games; it is a story in its own right and part of the ongoing regeneration of social housing in Glasgow.

"Yet, while recognising the ­demolition was already going to happen, there is no doubt the decision to include it in the opening ceremony is new territory. It is reflective of an opening ceremony designed to celebrate Glasgow's authenticity, passion and ambition."

He added: "Everyone involved in bringing this idea to life appreciates deeply that many people have powerful opinions of Red Road - a good many formed by living there.

"But, by dedicating just a few moments of the ceremony to the extraordinary story of Red Road, it is our ambition to depict Glasgow as a brave, confident and great city that is confronting the need for change: a city that has meaningful, revealing and sometimes challenging things to say and share."

It is planned that pictures of the demolition, to take place over just 15 seconds, will be beamed back to big screens in Celtic Park during the ceremony on July 23. Asylum seekers in the one block to be left standing will be evacuated while it is carried out.

Asked yesterday about the plan, Mr Mundell, Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale MP, said: "I think the linking of the two things - clearly there is scope for misinterpretation, so that rather than it necessarily being seen as a positive, it could be seen as a negative."

However, he added that "ultimately it is obviously for the City of Glasgow and the Games committee to make the ­decision about how they handle the opening ceremony".

Carolyn Leckie, a former MSP who started the petition, said she was ­disappointed with Mr Grevemberg's letter and that the campaign for a U-turn would continue.

"He says the planning has been going on for two years, yet they don't seem to have found the time to consult with the people who used to live there," she said.

"He hasn't responded to the concerns expressed by 14,000 people - he hasn't dealt with it leaving a block filled with asylum seekers, people finding it offensive and distasteful that these were previously homes or how the image of crumbling tower blocks will be interpreted internationally.

"You could have the story of Red Road in the ceremony without blasting the flats live. He talks about how much he knows about Glasgow and its passion - he's going to find out exactly how passionate Glaswegians are."

Ms Leckie, along with the son of the architect of the Red Road flats, is due to meet Glasgow 2014 board member Bridget McConnell next week to discuss the issue. Glasgow 2014 has said the meeting is an opportunity to "share more about the context and importance of Red Road's role within the ceremony".

However, Len Bunton, whose father Sam designed the flats, has described it as an "appalling" idea to demolish them during the opening ceremony.

Ms Leckie has admitted many in Glasgow support the demolition as part of the ceremony, but said the ramifications of the plans were international.

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