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  • Jerry Anderson Changed Olympic Landscape


    11/22/18

    (ATR) Jerry Anderson is remembered as someone who changed the Olympic landscape, literally.

    Jerry Anderson smiles in the control room for Super Bowl XLVII,in 2013. (Populous)
    Anderson’s life and contribution to staging of major sports events will be celebrated in a Nov. 30 ceremony at Coors Field in Denver. 

    He lived in Denver, where he based his work as Global Chairman of Populous, the firm he helped found in 1983.

    Anderson died September 25 of cancer. He was 64. The Michigan native is survived by his spouse, a son and his father.

    While he helped design stadiums and venues, Anderson is remembered for his work on more than a dozen Olympics and 35 Super Bowls, applying his architect skills to the overlay and operation of mega events. Other events that benefited from the Anderson touch were the NCAA Final Four, NFL Draft, World Cup and NHL special events.

    He became one of the most influential figures behind the scenes of the Olympics with work on every Games since 1996. As with the NFL and the Super Bowl, Anderson moved from simply designing venues for the Olympics to creating the overlay that makes everything work together.

    Jim Steeg, former special events director for the NFL, says that whether the Super Bowl or the Olympics, Anderson was a trailblazer.

    “It's amazing when you look at how events have changed. He was at the forefront of how things have changed. We never used to have architectural drawings in the 70s and 80s of where things went. Now it’s mandatory,” says Steeg.

    He recalls one Super Bowl where a credible bomb threat led Anderson to find the way to the suspicious package. He says that experience showed Anderson's style as a troubleshooter, hands on, engaged, unafraid to tackle the task.

    Former Super Bowl colleague Frank Supowitz worked with Anderson on 10 games and says the Michigan native was more than an architect.

    “Jerry’s unparalleled talent as an architect, his expert understanding of logistics, and his ability to manage conflicting people and priorities under incredible pressure helped to make the Super Bowl one of the world’s great events,” he tells ATR.

    A test event for the London Olympic Stadium designed by Populous. (ATR)
    Jeff Keas, senior partner at Populous taking over parts of the practice handled by Anderson, says his colleague was someone who was a good team builder, essential for a company with 600 employees.

    “You get an innovator. You get a great communicator and facilitator. You get someone who really brings people together. With offices all around the world that’s really important to have everybody on the same page,” Keas tells Around the Rings.

    Fraser Bullock was chief operating officer of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics where Anderson handled the venue overlay duties.

    “Jerry was a creative genius in his craft. He was extraordinary. His knowledge and experience were so deep that they inspired confidence in those of us around him. Yet he still listened carefully and thoughtfully addressed any needs or changes that surfaced. Through it all he was a true gentleman, a great friend, upbeat and kind.

    “We all wanted to spend more time with him and I would drop by just to be with him and chat about the Olympic world and life. His smile still stays with me,” Bullock tells ATR.

    As Salt Lake City wound down, Anderson launched Populous at the same time the company began to work with London 2012 on a venue plan for the successful bid.

    “London is one of our great stories. London was truly special because that was a decade in the making,” says Keas.

    “We started working in 2003 on the bid. We worked on the master plan for the Games, we worked on the master plan for the stadium. London is where we have had the most involvement across the board,” he says.

    Keas says Anderson was an early advocate of using temporary venues, something London welcomed.

    “Jerry was quite practical and pragmatic in that regard, even dating back to 1996 in Atlanta. In every city where we work we’ve said only build what you need for a legacy and if you don’t need it in legacy build it temporarily.

    "We don’t want to be architects of white elephants. We want to be architects of facilities that will be used,” Keas says.

    Keas spoke just before a two-week trip to Tokyo this month where Populous is a consultant on venues and overlay on the 2020 Olympics.

    Populous is already at work on Paris 2024, as in London, working on the venue plan since the days of the bid.

    Keas says work at Populous handled by Anderson is moving forward without interruption, including preparations for this season’s Super Bowl set for Atlanta and the new Mercedes Benz stadium in February.
    Running in the London 2012 Torch Relay. (Populous)

    “He would want the show to go on. He would want no fuss. That’s what the team has done - heads down elbows out.There is obviously an extra interest to make this the best Super Bowl ever,” Keas tells ATR.

    “Some people might say that’s not giving full respect to Jerry. But to go full steam ahead, that’s exactly what Jerry would want. Don’t keep your foot off the pedal. Keep going”.

    Anderson described the experience of running with the Olympic torch in London ahead of the 2012 Games as one of the peak moments of his Olympic involvement.

    “I’ve had the honor to connect with the Olympic spirit in many ways over my career – from our venues, to athletes, to staff, to spectators, and to communities,” Anderson said at the time of the torch run.

    “But this was truly one of the most amazing and thrilling experiences of my Olympic journey – to connect so closely to people through the power of the torch and the flame. I could feel their pride, happiness, and hope everywhere I turned. It was exciting and humbling all at the same time,” said Anderson.

    Reported by Ed Hula. For general comments or questions, click here.

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