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Flats demolished at Games ceremony


The Red Road flats in Glasgow will be demolished live during the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games

The Red Road flats in Glasgow will be demolished live during the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games

The Red Road flats in Glasgow will be demolished live during the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games

Tower blocks which have shaped the Glasgow skyline for five decades are to be demolished live during the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games.

Five of the six remaining Red Road blocks of flats will be blown up in just 15 seconds - an event described by organisers as the biggest demolition of its kind ever seen in Europe.

The blocks' final few moments will be beamed live into the ceremony at Celtic Park on a giant 100-metre screen, as well as to an estimated TV audience of more than one billion people around the world.

Eileen Gallagher, independent director on the Glasgow 2014 board and chair of the ceremonies, culture and Queen's baton relay committee, said: "By sharing the final moments of the Red Road flats with the world as part of the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, Glasgow is proving it is a city that is proud of its history but doesn't stand still. A city that is constantly regenerating, renewing and re-inventing itself.

"Glasgow's story is always one of its people; their tenacity, their genuine warmth, their ambitions. Marking the end of Red Road is very much a celebration of all of those things."

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, one in 2012 and one last year.

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

In 2006, director Andrea Arnold used the flats as the setting for her Scottish Bafta-winning film Red Road.

One block, Petershill Court, is currently used to house asylum seekers and will come down at a later date.

Demolition of the five skyscrapers will be part of the curtain raiser to the largest sporting and cultural event Scotland has ever hosted.

Games organisers believe the live blow-down will "serve as an unforgettable statement of how Glasgow is confidently embracing the future and changing for the better", while being a "respectful recognition and celebration of the role the Red Road flats have played in shaping the lives of thousands of city families" who lived there.

Almost 900 homes near the site will be temporarily evacuated during the event and their residents invited to join in the opening celebrations at local venues.

City council leader Gordon Matheson has written about the plans to each affected household.

He said: "The opening ceremony will be the moment when we welcome the world to Glasgow. It will be a ceremony like no other, showcasing our city's unique style and personality and with our people and communities at its very heart. We are going to wow the world, with the demolition of the Red Road flats set to play a starring role.

"Red Road has an iconic place in Glasgow's history, having been home to thousands of families and dominating the city's skyline for decades. Their demolition will all but mark the end of high-rise living in the area and is symbolic of the changing face of Glasgow, not least in terms of our preparations for the Games."

The blocks will be demolished under controlled conditions using more than 1,250kg of explosives, Games officials said.

David Zolkwer, head of ceremonies and 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."

Scotland's Commonwealth Games Minister Shona Robison said: "For many people, these Games are more than sport, they are a chance for regeneration, renewal and having better places to live and work."

Red Road resident Ali Mudassir, 21, said the tower blocks have been like family to him since he moved to Glasgow three years ago.

The student said: "They have been a family to me, that's how I would describe it. To have so many people around from different cultures and countries, always finding someone who can help you, who can guide you.

"It's been a great experience and they will be missed. The area will be entirely different after they've gone. But they have been here for 60 years or something and it was time to get them demolished anyway."