This summer, Glasgow will play host to the largest Scottish sporting event in history. In the coming weeks, years of planning will take full shape and the final results of this massive project will be clear for all to see.
Unfortunately, a look beyond the glamour of the velodrome and the promises of a triumphant post-games legacy reveal a more uncomfortable truth; that not everyone will be a winner at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Studies on previous Games have shown that large-scale sporting events such as the Delhi Games or Beijing Olympics nearly always have an adverse effect on vulnerable social groups such as homeless people, the poor and ethnic minorities.
In 2007, the Centre for Housing Rights and Evictions reported that the Olympic Games had evicted more than 2 million people over the past 20 years and is one of the top causes of house price inflation in the world.
The Games have also been found to create an incentive for officials to hide the worst parts of the host city – rather than actually deal with them – and can lead to ideas like the infamous Vancouver benches, designed specifically so that homeless people could not sleep on them.
Unfortunately, Glasgow 2014 has been far from the exception so far and organisers have found themselves in the press for the wrong reasons all too often. In 2011, Margaret and Jack Jaconelli were forcibly evicted from their Dalmarnock home of 34 years to make way for the planned ‘Athlete’s Village’.
Following Glasgow City Council’s successful pursuit of a compulsory purchase order for the house for just £30,000, sheriff officers and “dozens of police officers” arrived at the house at 5am and battered down barricades that the couple had erected to keep them out.
This was just one example of a large group of people who fought against having to uproot their lives after many found that the Games would mean moving their homes or jobs to entirely different parts of the city or beyond.
In fact, over a thousand people in low-income housing have been forced to move on from Glasgow’s East End since the demolition process began in 2000. Of the 1,500 new homes promised for sale and rent following the Games, only 20 per cent will be available for affordable social rented housing.
Glasgow City council have found themselves with questions to answer over how the planned regeneration for the games has been handled and in particular, whether local people have been exploited for the benefit of wealthy business owners.
Mayfair property developer Charles Price was able to sell a piece of land in Dalmarnock to the City Council for £20 million in 2011(£17 million plus an additional £3 million added VAT). He had previously purchased the property for just £8 million in the period 2002-2005.
The site was earmarked for the Commonwealth Games development and the council would have been within their right to perform a compulsory purchase order from Mr Price (such as in the case of Mrs Jaconelli) but instead negotiated with Mr Price to arrive at the figure.
Glasgow city Council justified the fee on the basis that it had commissioned an independent valuation of its own but the scandal surrounding the deal has been an embarrassment for a council that is relying heavily on the Games to shine a positive light on the city.
Many have pointed to the way that the East End has been treated as a continued programme of nonchalance towards the people who live in the area. Glasgow City Council already has a poor reputation among local people and many feel like the council has abandoned the East End and targeted investment in areas where affluent homeowners are more likely to look.
The success and subsequent legacy of the games will be crucial for a council that have been rocked by scandal and face increasing disenchantment over failed projects like the planned large-scale redesign of George Square.
Beyond that though, the Games project has the potential to backfire on council members if they put regeneration before the people who live in the areas they are trying to regenerate. The council must look at the project as a way to work with the people of Glasgow and heal the wounds of the past.
If they do that, the Games could be an opportunity to really bring the people of Glasgow together for a celebration like no other. After all, as all the banners say, people make Glasgow.