London Olympics has domino effect with three years to go ...

Britain celebrates 'volunteering ethos' as 2012 Olympics draw closer

As any child building a sandcastle will tell you, there are few things more satisfying than toiling for hours on end to create something, only to destroy it with glee once it's finished.

Which might explain why 600 volunteers gathered in east London yesterday to build painstakingly – and then topple – an enormous trail of concrete dominoes.

More than 12,000 breeze blocks were used to create the giant moving sculpture which began in Mile End Park, wound its way four miles through the Isle of Dogs, crossed under the Thames and ended up at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich.

The bizarre spectacle was one of more than 750 events held across the country to celebrate the fact that, from today the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics is just three years away.

Keen to drum up excitement for the games, the Olympics organisers have organised "Open Days" for the past two years to mark the moment we get a year closer to hosting the world's largest sporting event. More than 700,000 people are thought to have attended this year's Open Day, which was designed to encourage a volunteer ethos that will be very much in demand once the games come to Britain.

The brains behind the concrete domino trail were artists at the Station House Opera, a performance company based in London's Whitechapel, which won a £40,000 commission from the Bank of America to create an art installation which would encourage locals in the five East London boroughs hosting the Olympics to participate in public art.

The group specialises in using concrete breeze blocks to create moving sculptures and yesterday's trail was the largest outdoor installation they have done to date. "We wanted to create something that would be participatory and showcase all the different bits of east London," said Hadrian Garrard, the producer of Create09, an arts festival hosted by the five Olympic boroughs to showcase local artistic talent.

"The dominoes ran through a real cross-section of east London, from historic buildings like the naval college at Greenwich to run-down housing estates."

For the organisers, the biggest challenge was to find a way of getting the dominoes under the Thames and through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, which runs from the southern tip of the Isle of Dogs and emerges next to the now-charred remains of the Cutty Sark. "Getting the concrete blocks to go down the stairs wasn't a problem, but we had to use some rather ingenious wooden widgets to get them to topple up the staircase at the opposite end," said Mr Garrard.

"It worked out in the end. The best thing about installations like this is that they encourage vast swathes of people who might not normally be interested in public art to join in."

This weekend's event is likely to have been the largest breeze-block domino run ever done. The record for the largest toppling of ordinary dominoes was set last November in the Netherlands, at the annual Domino Festival.

10 things you didn't know about London 2012

*The 10,000 tonnes of tubular steel being used for the Olympic Stadium could end up being shipped over to the winners of the 2016 bid – especially if it is Chicago (who have already expressed an interest in the material)

*The set-piece, 200m bridge linking the centre of Stratford in east London to the heart of the Olympic Park will be lined on both sides with boxes for birds and bats.

*If Christine Ohuruogu wins gold in the women's 400m, she will break the record for the shortest distance between birthplace and site of Olympic victory. She was born in Newham, less than a mile away.

*The best view of the Olympic Park is from a nondescript, 14-storey residential tower block called Holden Point. It's about a mile from Stratford station and if you want to take a look book an appointment with Newham Council.

*All the toilets and road signs on the biggest construction site in Europe are being powered by small scale solar panels and wind turbines.

*Weymouth, one of the Olympic sailing venues, has been complete since November 2008.

*Half a million people need to get in and out of the Olympic Park every single day, and organisers intend them all to use public transport, walk or cycle. Cars are in effect going to be banished from Stratford from mid-2012.

*£100m has been spent on Stratford station to treble its size so that one train will arrive in the Olympic Park every 15 seconds, with 12 Javelin trains passing through Stratford International every hour.

*Apart from having its capacity reduced from 80,000 to 25,000 after the Games, London's stadium will be the lightest ever, and a fraction of the weight of the Bird's Nest.

*The undulating roof of Zaha Hadid's Aquatics Centre will be the architectural flagship of the Games, has unlikely green credentials: its 3,500 square metres are intended as "living space" to promote "biodiversity".

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