GLASGOW will sparkle tonight as its buildings engage in a ''dialogue of light'' to herald the beginning of the UK City of Architecture and Design year.

The party starts at 8pm, when lighting artist Stephen Hurrel, with UZ events, will breathe life into some of the city's most prominent architecture.

Sequenced light formations will make the buildings of previous architectural stars appear to ''talk'' to each other. Specators will be drawn from Glasgow University Tower clockwise to Park Circus, Skypark, the Daily Record Building, Finnieston Crane, South Rotunda, Pacific Quay and Govan Tower. This will be followed by a huge fireworks display visible all over the city.

More than 300 events, shows and exhibitions will fill Glasgow 1999, a cultural festival for the community that is hoped will leave a lasting legacy for the city.

Projects range from the renovation of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh building in Mitchell Lane, former home to The Herald, to fashion shows - Vivienne Westwood brings her spring/summer 1999 Gold Label Collection to the SECC this month.

The first exhibition in the festival opens today at the McLellan Galleries in Sauchiehall Street.

''Winning'' looks at the relationship between sport and design, charting the development of racing cars, bikes, surf and skate boards, trainers and even golf balls. Some special sporting items are on display, including Ronaldo's silver and yellow football boots, and Michael Jordan's famous gold Cortez runnning shoes. For ''trainer anoraks'' there is a quick preview of the latest Nike Air Max shoe.

''We wanted to take something that surrounds people whether they do sport or not, and almost everyone has a pair of trainers,'' said curator Susan Andrew, wearing a pair she had borrowed for the event.

''Winning is about winning against the elements as well as winning against opponents,'' she added, gesturing to the camping exhibit where three bottles of whisky were lined up outside a tent.

Helping to launch the exhibition, record breaking cyclist Graham Obree and his home-made bicycle - made from washing machine parts - teamed up with the Scottish Claymores and their cheerleaders.

Modelling his impressive shoulder pads for the Play Safe section, kicker-punter Robert Grant said: ''The exhibition looks great. It is putting Scottish sport on the way to win.''

As the showcase exhibition of Glasgow 1999, Winning has been designed to have popular appeal, fulfilling the organisers' promises about the festival.

''This is the first in a series of big and popular events that show how design touches everyday life,'' explained Mr Deyan Sudjic, director of Glasgow 1999.

''We wanted three exhibitions about design for the real world.,'' he added. As well as the sport exhibition there will be events later in the year focussing on food and homes.

''Design is about exciting things - the passion that goes into sport, the adrenalin of winning, and the demand to perform. We hope it will bring a new audience to architecture and design,'' he said.

Opening tomorrow is an exhibition at Central Station featuring Britain's young architectural talent. New Architects aims to highlight the ideas and concerns that inform the work of today's architects, and will include videos and interactive digital displays.

This month also sees the launch of Concentric Cities, a Glasgow-wide exhibition of 99 of the city's favourite buildings.