Haddon Twp. youth's dream comes true on Sochi's sidelines

Matthew Dezii at Sochi, where he is one of 22 interns who traveled with NBC to the Winter Olympics. The network selected 34 students from Syracuse University, Bradley University, and Ithaca as interns for its coverage.
Matthew Dezii at Sochi, where he is one of 22 interns who traveled with NBC to the Winter Olympics. The network selected 34 students from Syracuse University, Bradley University, and Ithaca as interns for its coverage. (MATTHEW DEZII)
Posted: February 22, 2014

Matthew Dezii is on a bus and can't understand what anyone is saying around him. He's guarding a bag of videotapes, which sits at his feet.

The bus - barreling down the side of a Russian mountain - needs to arrive on the coast of the Black Sea within the next half-hour, or NBC may not have any skiing footage for the night's telecast of the Winter Olympics.

Dezii, a Haddon Township native, has been interning in Sochi with NBC Sports since Jan. 25. A junior audio production major at Ithaca College in New York, he has been used by NBC as a "runner" at its International Broadcast Center throughout the games.

This means the 21-year-old, stationed 37 miles north of the city near mountain events such as skiing and luge, will spend 12 hours a day taking supplies and footage from NBC's mountain outpost to its main center in the Sochi Olympic Park.

"A lot of the time I'm just waiting around," Dezii said in a FaceTime video interview from Sochi. "But then someone will tell me that they need a laminating machine down at the Olympic Park, and I'll have to get on a bus and take it there."

He is one of 34 interns - culled from Syracuse University, Bradley University, and Ithaca - working with NBC during the Winter Olympics, and one of only 22 chosen to travel to Russia with NBC.

Ithaca has partnered with NBC since the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.

"If a student wants top-tier production experience in an international venue, the Olympics is it," said Virginia Mansfield-Richardson, associate dean of the Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca. "These kids don't get selected unless they are absolutely outstanding students."

For Dezii, selected by NBC from a pool of more than 300 applicants from Ithaca, hopping on a plane to Sochi was the final step in a multiyear plan to intern with the network. NBC pays for his food and lodging at the games and for the Ithaca credits he will earn from the internship.

"When we were looking at colleges, we heard about Ithaca's partnership with NBC," said Matthew's mother, Marie Dezii. "He turned to me and said, 'Mom, I'm going to go to the Olympics with NBC one day.'"

The Haddon Township High School graduate credits his experience with professional technology and video production as the reason NBC selected him.

Last summer, Dezii collaborated with fellow Ithaca student Keith A. Johnson on a short film called Fixation, which tells the story of a college-age male who accidentally takes a valuable coin from a homeless man and must decide whether to return it. Johnson has entered the film in the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.

"It's like Matt's been in this business for decades," Johnson said of Dezii, who handled the audio recording and editing on the project. "He'd stay around after we finished filming to oversee the editing, even though he didn't have to."

Dezii said he has struggled with the steep language barrier in Russia. He has four Russian-speaking roommates, who often converse together in their native tongue.

"They have to clue me in on a lot of things," he said, laughing. "Apparently, it's bad luck to whistle indoors in Russia. I'm a happy guy, so I've had to cut that out."

At Haddon Township High, Dezii grew a beard to fit the lead role of Tevye in the school's production of Fiddler on the Roof. His theatrical skills have come in handy overseas, as he's occasionally had to scramble to help out in front of the camera.

"I had the opportunity to interview mogul skier Heather McPhie following a training run because my producer was in the bathroom," Dezii said.

His biggest concern going into the games? Simply that he might not get to watch any of them.

"I was worried they'd be working me too hard," he said. "But when I'm waiting for an assignment, I've got the entire NBC live feed in front of me."


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