Winter Olympics Sochi 2014

Winter Olympics Sochi 2014

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Sochi Olympics' Opening Ceremony a Joyous Night for South Florida Olympians

“I told you I’d throw you an awesome birthday party, bro,” Eddy Alvarez told fellow speed skater Joey Mantia

By Julia Bagg and Christina Hernandez
|  Saturday, Feb 8, 2014  |  Updated 1:26 AM EDT
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    As Team USA made its entrance into the Fisht Olympic Stadium for the Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Games Friday night, one of South Florida’s own was right in the front row.

    Eddy Alvarez was just behind the flag as the XXII Olympic Winter Games officially began.

    Later, as the festive ceremony came to a close, bursts of color lit up the Sochi sky just in time for another local Olympian to turn 28.

    “I told you I’d throw you an awesome birthday party, bro,” Alvarez told fellow speed skater Joey Mantia outside the stadium. “I really did.”

    Mantia said it absolutely was a great time.

    “You know, Russia gets it. You know, everybody was here, the whole country was watching, and fireworks, torches, dancing,” Mantia said, as Alvarez agreed about the dancing. “They throw a party.”

    Former Miami Hurricanes standout Lauryn Williams and her bobsled teammates, including Lolo Jones, were full of smiles after the event. Williams and Jones are joining a select group of Americans who have competed in both the Summer and Winter Games as they take part in the Sochi Olympics.

    “I think for me and Lauryn, being able to actually sit down in the stadium and watch it, we were jumping in joy for that,” Jones said.

    In South Miami, Alvarez’s family and friends held a watch party fit for an Olympian, cheering “Eddy! Eddy!” as they saw the 23-year-old walk in the Opening Ceremony.

    "People would say what's a kid from Florida doing here, and not only skating, but winning,” his father Walter Alvarez said.

    This weekend, he and his wife Maybel will fly to Sochi to watch their son fulfill his dream.

    "A kid raised here in Miami, born and raised in Miami, can do anything, anything he wants,” Walter Alvarez said.

    Back in Russia, as Eddy Alvarez hung out with Mantia and speed skater Brittany Bowe, he asked the Florida Atlantic University grad what moment stood out for her Friday night.

    “Walking out I got a little choked up. I have to admit I had a tear run down my face. That was pretty surreal,” Bowe said.

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