Forget the recession, police strikes and corruption scandals: it's Carnival time in Rio de Janeiro where, for a few days, everyone is partying. Rough cut (no reporter narration)
Rio de Janeiro's annual decadent Carnival kicked off late on Friday (February 24) as costumed performers set off on the first day of parades in the Sambadrome. Despite an ongoing recession and police strikes that raised security concerns in recent weeks, thousands of locals and tourists swarmed across Rio for the start of the five-day festival, which the city expects will draw more than 1 million visitors and generate about $1 billion for the local economy. The nationally televised annual parades featuring up to 5,000 dancers each and near-naked Carnival queens is a serious competition for the top Samba schools, judged on choreography, atmosphere, organization, and singing among other points. A disorganised wing or a faulty float can cost a school the tile and bragging rights over the next year. Rio's Carnival is internationally known for block parties and the big-budget spectacle of parades. This year, the spectacle plays out as Brazil seeks to emerge from a two-year recession, its worst on record, and political volatility that last year led to a presidential impeachment. A limited police strike in Rio, and a far bigger stoppage by police in the neighbouring state of Espirito Santo, earlier this month prompted fears of a crime surge during Carnival. But policing in Rio by this week had returned to normal and pre-Carnival street parties have been celebrated without major disruptions. The festival, whose roots lie in a tradition of carnal indulgence before the austere Catholic season of Lent, officially ends next Wednesday.