I don’t think I had ever been to the East End of Glasgow until I attended the Volunteer Orientation event at the Emirates Arena earlier this year. I still don’t know very much about it, other than the immediate environs of Dalmarnock station, my commuting hub for the last couple of weeks.
The Athletes’ Village is the centre of a massive regeneration area, including newly built houses, which will both social and private homes after the Games have finished. There is a mixture of terraced houses and low rise flats as well as a building that will be a care home for elderly and disabled people. The development, the size of some multiple of football pitches that I cannot recall (suffice to say it takes a good 20 minutes brisk walk from to get from one end to the other) will be finished off, with the installation of kitchens and the filling in of party walls which have been left open between pairs of terraced houses, once the athletes vacate the Village on August 6.
I have only seen pictures of what was here before – elderly factories and Victorian tenement blocks. Some were very unhappy to see so much demolished and swept away, and there were protests and occupations in the run up to some phases of the demolition. And now the Village and the necessary transport hub bringing thousands of people in and out of it every day, are surrounded by a high security fence. But there are people living in houses just across the street.
This is the view from the houses across the road from one of the vehicle entrances on the south side of the Village: athletes walking to and fro, cars dropping off and picking up, roaming TV crews trying to catch vox pop interviews on the hoof; security staff and armed police standing by.
Most days when I have arrived for my shift, or on my multiple walks in and out, I have seen residents leaning on their garden gates, watching the world go by. There is one elderly lady who takes her morning coffee, and chats with passers-by while still in her dressing gown. The residents have endured all the noise and dirt of the demolition, of construction, and now are kept away from crossing their own road by security cordons and thousands of people in uniforms of various hues.
A couple of days ago I asked one of the garden gate ladies what she thought of it all, assuming that it must all feel like a bit of a nuisance to her. ‘Aw no’ she said. ‘Ut’s great. Naebdy ivver kem doon here afore. Noo there’s somethin tae watch all the time.’