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Changes to Games ceremony welcomed


An aerial image of a giant 100 which has been painted on the grass at Hampden Park to mark 100 days to go until the Commonwealth Games. (Sandy Young/PA)

An aerial image of a giant 100 which has been painted on the grass at Hampden Park to mark 100 days to go until the Commonwealth Games. (Sandy Young/PA)

An aerial image of a giant 100 which has been painted on the grass at Hampden Park to mark 100 days to go until the Commonwealth Games. (Sandy Young/PA)

Commonwealth Games organisers have said they abandoned controversial plans to demolish city tower blocks as part of the opening ceremony amid fears the event would turn from a "commemorative event" into a "potential protest".

Glasgow 2014 chiefs had intended to blow down five of the six remaining 1960s Red Road flats at the July 23 event, with the footage beamed into the Celtic Park ceremony and to an estimated global TV audience of more than one billion people.

But it attracted fierce opposition from critics who said it was insensitive to former residents and to the asylum seekers who occupy the sixth block, with thousands of people signing an online petition calling for the plans to be dropped.

Organisers said the plan would commemorate an important part of the city's social history, but aborted the idea yesterday.

They said that safety was a priority and that they had decided to abandon the plan following recommendations from police.

David Grevemberg, Glasgow 2014 chief executive, told BBC Scotland: "Our intentions from the beginning were to very much showcase the social history, commemorate the social history of Glasgow but also signify in a very bold way where Glasgow is going in terms of regeneration but we've always mentioned as part of this initiative that safety first.

"The nature of some of the debate and discussion and also some of the opposition to these ideas certainly became very, very focused and also we made a very very clear assessment over the past few days where that was going with our partners and had recommendations from Police Scotland that the nature of some of that opposition would make this not a commemorative event but would start moving this on to a potential protest and that's not what the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games is about and it's something we needed to reconsider and abort yesterday."

Organisers said the decision to scrap the blow down were taken after opinions were expressed which ''change the safety and security context''.

While they did not give details, recent reports suggested that some families living near the demolition site were vowing not to leave the blast zone in protest at the proposals.

Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) will now reschedule the demolitions.

Mr Grevemberg said that the blow down was intended to be a "commemorative moment" not a celebration.

He told the BBC: "It was always seen as a bold statement of regeneration and as a bold statement of commemoration of this is where we've come from, this is a point of time and this is a bold statement of moving forward, as has been a major running theme of part of the Commonwealth Games."

He said they would now find "other ways of telling that story".

When they were built between 1964 and 1969, the Red Road flats were the highest in Europe at 292ft (89 metres). Six of the original eight tower blocks remain after two earlier demolitions.

They were designed to hold 4,700 people but latterly far fewer people remained there, after decades of the properties slipping into decline.

Their collective demolition was set to last just 15 seconds in an event described as the biggest demolition of its kind ever seen in Europe.

Former Scottish Socialist MSP Carolyn Leckie, who began a public petition against the demolition, welcomed the decision.

She told BBC Scotland: "It's the right decision and I think it should be welcomed that they have been prepared to change their minds, no matter what has prompted them to change their minds."

The event's organisers today released a new aerial image of the athletics stadium to mark 100 days to go until the event.

A giant 100 has been painted onto the grass at Hampden Park, which is being temporarily transformed from Scotland's national stadium into a track and field venue for the Games.

Glasgow 2014 chiefs will also mark the countdown by revealing the creative elements that will form the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Medal Ceremony later today, as well as the medals themselves.