AFP/Rio de Janeiro
Millions of people in costumes partied in street carnivals across Brazil yesterday ahead of the elite samba school dance off in Rio de Janeiro.
Carnival officially started Friday with the first parades of thousands of sequin-and-feather-covered samba school performers in cities across Latin America’s biggest country.
More informal street dances called “blocos” took up the beat through the weekend, drawing vast crowds.
Despite the rowdy, often raunchy nature of the parties, the mass of people and heavy consumption of alcohol, there were few reports of trouble.
However, a man in the northeastern city of Salvador died yesterday after being shot by a policeman in the middle of the carnival crowd, G1 news site reported.
The officer said it was in self-defense.
Street party costumes this year included nods to Brazil’s ongoing corruption crisis.
Some dressed as jailed politicians and executives, others as law enforcement officials.
A popular new character is the so-called “hipster federal cop,” a policeman whose muscular build and trendy hair-do made him a heartthrob when he was photographed guarding a corrupt politician.
For many Brazilians, however, “blocos” are above all an opportunity to shed inhibitions.
A few spots of rain in Rio and the threat of thunderstorms later were not expected to dampen the mood when the country’s most prestigious samba schools start parading in Rio’s Sambodromo stadium.
The Sambodromo parades, which combine wildly imaginative costumes, choreographed dancing by several thousand people, and heart-pounding singing and drumming, were to run all through the night, then start again today for a second night.
Here the wild fun will get serious as the top ranking samba schools compete for the coveted prize of champion, which will be announced on Wednesday at the start of Lent for this mostly Roman Catholic country.
Fans from each school pack the 70,000 capacity Sambodromo, cheering and dancing along to their school’s anthem.
Judges up in boxes at the midpoint of the parade mark on strict criteria including costumes, floats, lyrics, and singing.
Tourism officials told Globo newspaper yesterday that as many as 1.5mn tourists have descended on the city, the best result in eight years, injecting some 3bn reais ($960mn) into the local economy.
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