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Quincy native gets firsthand look at Sochi's transformation

Posted by Dan Egan  February 12, 2014 04:45 AM

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Paul Noonan really likes living in Russia, speaking Russian, and just being in Russia. Ever since he came here on student exchange program in high school, he has had a connection to this place.

Now he's working on the logistic crew for NBC at the Olympics, and is enjoying his five-month work assignment in Sochi.

“A lot has changed since I first came in November,” said Noonan, who is originally from Quincy. “The roads, security, and the Olympic Village, it all came together right at the end.”

He studied Russian for four years at BB&N high school in Cambridge, where he was motivated by his Russian teacher, Armen Dedekian, who recently retired after teaching for 36 years at BB&N.

Dedekian has led more than 40 trips to Russia with students since 1971, and the school has been a leader in Russian exchange programs. The influence of this program has been far reaching. Alexander Vershbow ('70) studied Russian at BB&N and went on to become US ambassador to Russia from 2001-2005.

“Paul was a serious hockey player and that was his motivation for Russia also, as he knew everything about the Russian professional hockey players playing in the NHL, Dedekian said.

Noonan and his Russian friends believe the Olympics have transformed not only Sochi, but the image of Russian’s in general.

“The message of the Olympics is to celebrate the country that hosts it,” Noonan said. “What they built here and what they are doing here is really impressive. The Russians are great hosts.

“The Olympics are about doing great things, whether you're participating in them or just coming to see them. They motivated me to be a part of them in anyway I could.”

He’ll be here after most of us have gone home, and he’ll have the perspective of how the Olympic wave rolled and rolled out of Sochi and he’ll have connections with the people of this country that will live here long after world sets its sights on the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea.

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