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Anger as Red Road flats demolition is offered as Games entertainment

IT will be Glasgow's big moment in the spotlight, a showcase event that will be seen by one billion people worldwide.

BIG BLAST: Five of the six remaining Red Road blocks will be demolished at once, leaving a single building housing asylum seekers. Picture: Martin Shields
BIG BLAST: Five of the six remaining Red Road blocks will be demolished at once, leaving a single building housing asylum seekers. Picture: Martin Shields

Organisers of the 2014 Commonwealth Games have vowed to put the city's regeneration at the heart of the opening ceremony by bringing down five of the six Red Road flat blocks live during the festivities - a move instantly branded crude and insensitive by some commentators.

The flats will come down in 15 seconds under controlled conditions using more than 1250kg of explosives. The remaining block, Petershill Court, is currently used to house asylum seekers and will come down at a later date. Almost 900 homes near the site will be temporarily evacuated during the demolition and their residents invited to join in the opening celebrations at local venues.

The team behind the Games said it would be an "unforgettable statement of how Glasgow is confidently embracing the future and changing for the better". They also insisted it would be a "respectful recognition and celebration of the role the Red Road flats have played in shaping the lives of thousands of city families".

Steven Camley's cartoon 

But the move quickly sparked a wave of controversy. The Very Reverend Kelvin Holdsworth, provost of St Mary's Cathedral in Glasgow, said he thought it was in "pretty poor taste" and raised questions over the decision to evacuate asylum seekers from the remaining tower block to watch the demolition.

He said: "Notwithstanding the fact that people like to watch the spectacle of tower blocks being brought down, there is something about making this the focus of a big entertainment production that makes me feel uneasy.

"Making asylum seekers leave their homes to shelter from explosions is not an image of ­Glasgow that I think is particularly entertaining and not one that should be beamed around the world. I'm a supporter of urban regeneration. Many of the high towers in Glasgow failed and should be pulled down. I'm far from sure they should be pulled down as entertainment at the Commonwealth Games."

Playwright David Greig, ­writing on Twitter, said: "Can't help ­feeling this Red Road thing is a dreadful own goal for the games. At best it's odd. At worst tasteless. Its message unclear."

Author Alison Irvine, who wrote her 2011 novel This Road is Red based on interviews with the towers' residents, described the move as "crude".

She said: "Whoever came up with this idea clearly has no understanding of the intricacies and complexities of the Red Road flats. To celebrate the destruction of people's homes is a crude gesture and is not the image ­Glasgow 2014 should be sending to the world."

However, officials have defended their plans and said the role of the Red Road flats in ­Glasgow's history is too great to ignore. They argue that including the towers' demise in the Games ceremony is a tribute to the city's past while highlighting ongoing regeneration efforts.

David Zolkwer, artistic director for Glasgow 2014, said: "Over the course of just a few seconds the city's skyline will be transformed forever. It's a bold and confident statement that says 'bring on the future', but it will also be an important opportunity for us to contemplate the many lives lived in the tower blocks over the last 50 years."

Eileen Gallagher, chairwoman of Glasgow 2014's Ceremonies, Culture and Queen's Baton Relay Committee, said: "This is about making the making the most of what was already planned in terms of a scheduled demolition and taking the opportunity to showcase Glasgow's regeneration and housing revolution to the world."

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