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5 Things to Know About NBC's Russian-American Olympics Commentator Vladimir Pozner

Vladimir Pozner P
Getty
Vladimir Pozner

The veteran newsman will join Bob Costas' "Late Night Olympics Show" during the Winter Games in Sochi next month.

One of Russia's top TV hosts, Vladimir Pozner, will soon be joining Bob Costas on NBC's Late Night Olympics Show to offer a Russian perspective on the Sochi Winter Olympics.

Pozner, a veteran newsman whose career spans U.S-Russia relations dating back to the Cold War era, will make his first appearance during the Feb. 6 edition of the show, which airs the night before the opening ceremony.

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An accomplished TV broadcaster, Pozner has covered three previous Olympics: the 1980 Moscow summer games for Soviet television, the 2006 winter games in Turin for Russian TV and the 2010 winter games in Vancouver. His aim has always been to explain to viewers at home and abroad the social and political stage on which the sports are played out.

The Sochi Olympics will mark Pozner's first time in the sports studio for a U.S. network, where he will provide viewers with a Russian perspective into the broader background to the games.

The recent bombings in Volgograd, threats of terrorist attacks leading up to and during the games, and the Kremlin's anti-gay campaign could all be topics of discussion.

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Here are five things U.S. viewers should know about Pozner's background:

1. He was born in Paris but grew up in New York.

Pozner speaks fluent, American-accented English, which he learned as a boy growing up in America in the 1940s. The 79-year-old broadcaster, who's Russian father was Jewish and French mother a Catholic, was born in Paris but spent much of his childhood and teen years in New York, where he attended Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan. His parents separately shortly after his birth but reunited and were living again in Paris in 1940 when the Nazis invaded.

2. His family lived in the Soviet sector of Berlin before moving to Moscow.

His family moved to the Soviet sector of Berlin in 1948 and then to Moscow in 1952. Because Pozner's father was suspected by U.S. authorities of being a Soviet spy, his family was refused entry to France in 1948.

3. He went from a KGB "disinformation agent" to a frequent Nightline guest

Pozner began his career as a journalist thanks to the KGB, the Soviet-era secret police, who placed him as a "disinformation agent" at the English-language publication Soviet Life.

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He later moved to the English-language, North American service of Moscow Radio. He became familiar to U.S. viewers in the 1980s as a frequent guest on Ted Koppel's Nightline and as the Russian host for U.S.-Soviet televised discussions, known as "telebridges." "What I was doing was propaganda," he later said of the pro-Soviet views he expressed at that time.

4. He later co-hosted a CNBC show with Phil Donahue.

In 1991, he lost his job at the state-run Soviet TV after supporting Boris Yeltsin against Communist leader Mikhail Gorbachev and then went on to co-host CNBC's syndicated news show Pozner/Donahue with Phil Donahue from 1991 to 1994.

5. He's a controversial figure in some circles.

An avowed admirer of the current Kremlin administration, Pozner is on the record as saying that Vladimir Putin "has turned out to be a very strong and important president for Russia."

But he is an atheist with his own independent views on the powerful Russian Orthodox Church, of which he is critical because of what he sees as its undue influence in Russian state affairs.

He also has a rather low opinion of the craft of journalism in Russia, declaring that: "In Russia there are no journalists and journalism."