The two-night extravaganza began in the Sambodromo, where 72, spectators sat in sweltering heat, with many thousands more milling around outside selling drinks, putting on costumes or simply soaking up the atmosphere. Three of the samba schools taking openly critical stands against the political and corruption crisis that has engulfed Latin America's biggest country over the last four years.
Even by Brazil's deteriorating standards, Rio de Janeiro is in particularly deep financial trouble, while crime in many areas is out of control. Two children were among the dead in shootings last week and a policeman was reported Sunday to have been shot dead in a suburb - the 16th officer killed already this year.
So although 17, police have been deployed for the carnival, large parts of Rio, like Rocinha or City of God, are virtual no-go zones for both police and tourists.
Locals in those areas, dubbed favelas, have to survive in the crossfire of drug gangs and the security forces. To make matters worse for the passionate carnival-going public, Mayor Marcelo Crivella - a bishop in the evangelical mega church founded by his billionaire uncle - has cut subsidies to the annual bash in half. George Damiao, 38, who was taking part in the Imperio Serrano school's parade, said: "The schools had to use every trick to find sponsors at the last minute and make miracles for the parade to happen. Unusually for a mayor, Crivella is not even expected to come anywhere near the parades.
Although he has not said as much, the snub is widely believed to make clear his distaste for the bared flesh and boozing. The samba parades used to be a magnet for politicians before a sprawling corruption investigation around state-run oil giant Petrobras began in Now officeholders fear being booed and even attacked by critics during the party.
President Temer, whose popularity is in single digits, spent his last carnival as leader with a group of 40 people on a military-guarded beach south of Rio. Morais, who already had his face painted white and would later don huge black wings, said carnival was a chance for Brazil's poor to speak out. Politics aside, thirteen samba schools from the top division were facing off in a talent contest taken every bit as seriously as the city's great love - football. Each school gets about an hour to parade through the purpose-built stadium with about 3, dancers, singers and drummers dressed in over-the-top costumes.
Last year, the contest ended in a draw between the Mocidade and Portela schools. Organisers may not be exaggerating when they claim the parades to be the world's greatest show. We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online news team? Sign in. All Football.
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