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Games organisers scramble to fit smoke alarms after fire service chiefs say Athletes' Village is unsafe

ALL 700 houses in the Athletes' Village for the Commonwealth Games are undergoing last-minute alterations and being fitted with extra smoke alarms after Glasgow 2014 chiefs failed to meet safety standards, the Sunday Herald can reveal.

With less than one month to go until the £575 million sporting festival begins, many of the Commonwealth Games properties in Glasgow's east end are still not ready because they fall foul of fire safety regulations.

It is understood that as far back as 2009 fire chiefs warned the Games' organisers that, although the Village will ultimately be used as housing, it would have to meet the higher fire-safety standards applied to non-domestic properties as it would function more like a hotel during the Games.

However, it is only in the last few weeks that work has started on bringing the Village up to the correct specifications, with every residence being retrofitted with extra smoke alarms.

Glasgow 2014 last night said the majority - but not all - of the installation was now complete.

Organisers refused to reveal the cost of the extra work "due to commercial sensitivities", but said it would be met from the overall Village budget.

The problem was highlighted in March in a secret inspection report by the Commonwealth Games Federation which Glasgow 2014 refused to publish, but which the Sunday Herald obtained through Freedom of Information legislation.

It said: "There is an outstanding issue with regard to fire safety compliance.

"G2014 have proposed a solution and are waiting on approval - it will take six to eight weeks to install, so time is running out if a decision is not made soon.

"The specification changed from the original specifications, creating this issue."

The Village is due to open on July 13, 10 days before the opening ceremony of the Games.

Glasgow 2014 claimed "the nature of an Athletes' Village is not covered in existing regulations".

However, this was challenged by fire service sources, who said the law was clear that all properties, bar homes and a few exceptional cases, are subject to fire safety regulations.

A Games source said the organisers had expected the fire service to give final approval to the Village as domestic property, and were surprised at its "overly risk averse" attitude.

MSP Liz Smith, the Tory spokeswoman on sport, said: "This is yet another reason why there is public concern about some aspects of planning ahead of the Commonwealth Games.

"If it is true that organisers were warned of this potential problem some years back and nothing happened, it begs the question of why no one listened and why we are now facing a situation where urgent fire safety adaptations are taking place with just a few weeks to go.

"Like other issues relating to funding, there has been an unwelcome lack of transparency."

A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) spokesman said: "When occupied by the athletes during the Games the buildings within the Athletes' Village are defined as relevant premises under the Fire Scotland Act 2005.

"We have been working closely with the Commonwealth Games Federation since 2009 to ensure buildings within the Athletes' Village meet the appropriate benchmark fire safety standards for these types of premises.

"Throughout, our officers have provided advice on the Fire Risk Assessment process including the fire alarm and detection measures, protection and maintenance of escape routes and having suitable evacuation procedures in place to achieve the benchmark fire safety standards.

"The strong partnership between Glasgow 2014 and SFRS has ensured these measures will be in place and, like all venues, the Athletes' Village will have excellent fire safety standards."

A Glasgow 2014 spokesman said: "There was recognition that the Games Village would be different in its built-and-use form to the legacy form, but until a significant proportion of the physical build was complete and a comprehensive understanding of the Games occupancy characteristics were fully understood then any mitigation would have been premature.

"The SFRS carried out their analysis of the Village in Games mode in November 2013 and reported those findings to the Organising Committee towards the end of January 2014. Those findings have been the agreed agenda for the installations which have been delivered and which are now being concluded."

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