Rio de Janeiro Carnival 2012: The First Nights of Parades in the Sambadrome [Big Picture]

Decked up in colorful enticing samba costumes, millions jammed up the streets of Brazil on the first and second nights of extravagant 2012 Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival parade.

As many as 850,000 tourists descend on Rio for the five-day-long Carnival free-for-all, and blocos offer plenty of nonverbal opportunities for fun. If drinking till you pass out doesn’t suit your fancy, you might try racking up as many snogging partners as humanly possible during a single street party, a common Carnival game here.

Rio de Janeiro lit up over the weekend as Brazil was consumed by Carnival fever and the country’s numerous samba schools took to the street. The festivities were, as ever, over the top. As were the floats. As was the crowd. As was the music.

The night parades are full of joy and magic: captivating samba beats, superb percussionists, imaginative choreography, masterful execution and the beguiling sex appeal of gorgeous women wearing colorful feathers and little else.

The parades, which attract millions of tourists, cemented the Rio Carnival’s reputation as “the greatest show on earth”.

Seats at the open-air Sambadrome vary from $50 to several thousand dollars, depending on whether one sits on packed benches in the open or in air-conditioned VIP boxes stocked with champagne.

Rio is cleaning itself up for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics and the city’s infrastructure is being reinvented to deal with massive crowds. Over one million people celebrated the festival in Rio, which attracted many foreign tourists.

According to the Washington Post, locals had been concerned that crime in both Rio and Salvador would curtail the celebrations. Fortunately there were only minor outbreaks of violence and the party rolled into the morning, then the evening, then the morning, then the evening.

Celebrities were also in attendance. Madonna was present and accounted for along with Beyonce, Jude Law, Paris Hilton, Pamela Anderson and Kevin Spacey.

Rio de Janeiro’s annual Carnival kicked off as top samba schools paraded sumptuous allegorical floats and hundreds of exquisitely costumed performers to thumping drum beats.

With bursts of fireworks, high-decibel music and a kaleidoscope of colors, the city’s top 13 samba schools made stunning processions of exquisitely decorated allegorical floats and lavishly costumed performers, writes RTE News.

On Monday Sao Clemente, one of the top samba schools took center stage at the Sambadrome, drew inspiration from a selection of popular Broadway musicals such as “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Cabaret”.

The school, well-known for its irreverence, was displaying a reclining Statue of Liberty in bikini and sandals holding an ice cream.

Seven top schools showed off their best performers in the city’s renovated Sambodrome’s 720-metre-long (2400-foot) avenue in front of a capacity crowd of 72,500 people.

Six other schools are to parade on Monday night as part of the hotly contested event to pick the Carnival champion, judged on choreography, music, dancing and creativity.

All parts of the region were honored by the Imperatriz school, which explored the life and cultural legacy of the great Bahian writer Jorge Amado.

Salvador is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Amado, whose books have been translated into 49 languages and popularized in film, notably “Dona Flor and her Two Husbands”.

Check more photos at Ascom Riotur on Flickr or at Rio Guia Oficial.

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