Rio took place March 5-9 this year and everyone had three days off work to enjoy the holidays. My Carnaval was spent seeing more blocos (as described in my last post), and going to the famous parade along Sapucai Avenue in the Sambadrome stadium. I had less fun at the blocos during Carnaval than the previous weekends because of the rain, immense crowds, difficulty getting around town and higher risk of pickpocketing, but it was still very fun! The costumes that some people were wearing on the street were incredible.
Seeing the parade was definitely the highlight. They call it ``O Maior Espetáculo da Terra`` (The Greatest Show on Earth) and they must be right. It IS the most spectacular thing I have ever seen!
I went for two nights. Once for the first of two nights of the competition, and once at the Champions Parade. The first night we went an hour before opening time and bought tickets from the scalpers for just 30 reais (about 18 dollars), and sat in the cheapest seats (Section 6). We were at the last bleachers before the parade exits. Our bleachers were behind a large VIP section so we were significantly further back than all the other bleachers. We couldn´t see the paraders until they arrived at our section, but between then and the exit, it was definitely enough time to see all the floats, paraders and performances as they dance past. It was a little harder to see the details on the costumes and floats that far back, but I could still see a good amount and my pictures were almost as good as my pictures from a more expensive section at the Champions Parade (Section 4). So the cheap seats were definitely the best value, especially considering one can easily pay over ten times that much on other sections.
I also enjoyed going to the competition night more than the Champions Parade, because the spirit was higher, the paraders were more plentiful and everyone was trying a lot harder. A lot of the paraders even took off their hats during the Champions Parade, which took away from the full effect. I don't blame them though - those costumes are hot! The Champions Parade went by much faster though. It ended early – at
6 a.m. (started at 9 p.m.).
The winner was the samba school, Beija-Flor (Portuguese for humming bird, or literally – kiss-flower) whose theme celebrated the life of Roberto Carlos, the King of Brazilian Music. Second place went to Unidos Tijuca with their horror movie theme. And the third went to Mangueira, one of the most tradition samba schools, with a theme that celebrated the life of a famous Mangueira samba musician. Fourth place went to Villa Isabella who had a theme of ``Hair`` and had Gisele Bundchen standing on their final float. It was a little strategic in my opinion, considering the event flyers had Pantene Pro-V adds featuring the supermodel.
Without a doubt, the crowd-pleaser was Unidos da Tijuca. Most people think they should have won and that Beija-Flor bribed the judges. Or the judges were just entranced by the presence of Roberto Carlos on the final float. Who knows. The only school that people cheered ``Campeão`` (champion) during both nights I was there was Unidos da Tijuca.
Here are some photos of the real winner in our hearts: