RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Rio’s carnival showed no sign of flagging on its fourth day of festivities Monday, February 16, with one final, dazzling procession planned by its famed samba schools.
Not even a thunderstorm could dampen the ardor of the 72,000 crowd that packed the Oscar Niemeyer-designed Sambadrome in downtown Rio for Sunday’s (February 15) parade by the first 6 schools looking to succeed Unidos de Tijuca as grand champions.
Festivities will go into extra-time this year as they flow into those marking Rio’s 450th birthday on March 1.
Six remaining elite samba schools are due to rock the Sambadrome foundations into the early hours of Tuesday, February 17, when some 30,000 participants will sashay down the 720-meter (yard) Sapucai Avenue piste.
But as the city parties its heart out, a sour note was struck as questions were raised over the finances of a top samba school.
The media in recent days have called into question the financing of Beija-Flor, amid a report by O Globo daily that the president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, had bankrolled the club to the tune of $5 million.
The press service for Beija-flor, whose theme this year is a “strong, joyful and colored” Africa, told Agence France-Presse they had received merely “cultural support and imported fabrics” from Equatorial Guinea.
Nguema – who, along with his son, is facing allegations of money laundering and corruption – holds an iron grip over tiny, oil-rich Equatorial Guinea in central Africa.
Globo reported that his son Teodorin on Sunday night had reserved the 7 most expensive suites at the plush Copacabana Palace hotel, where he attended a ball, “unsmiling … and surrounded by his security detail.”
Imperatriz Leopoldinense is another samba school with an African theme.
Adding to the hedonistic atmosphere, carnal matters were on the menu of Mocidade Independente school’s offering Sunday with around 50 almost naked dancers simulating sex, be it of the heterosexual or homosexual variety, in couples or in groups.
The group, whose gigantic float resembled a love hotel, asked rhetorically: “What would you do if the world was about to end and you only had one day to live? Shopping, gymnastics or make frantic love for 24 hours?”
The winners of the elite group crown will be unveiled Wednesday, February 18, by which time the official carnival will be over, although street parties which started some 3 weeks beforehand will continue.
Although the massive overnight elite samba parades mark the highpoint of the event, Rio is also jammed by day and into the small hours with dozens of street parties attracting anything from a few hundred to hundreds of thousands of revelers.
One street band Sargento Pimenta – Sergeant Pepper in Portuguese – has become a favorite attraction in recent years, last year attracting more than 100,000 people to the Flamengo district with their carnival “marchinha” or march infusing hours of Beatles favorites with a raucous samba touch.
Last year saw “John Lennon” and “Yoko Ono” make an appearance to add to the Beatles fun – which includes a conga-style dance with participants dancing covered in a fabric “yellow submarine.”
This year, however, Daniel Gnattali, who dresses for the occasion as a convincing Lennon, was shorn of his real life paramour, actress Lian Tai, currently visiting the Beatles’ old haunt of India.
In nearby Laranjeiras district, a mainly youthful crowd including hundreds of young children also congregated, many wearing fancy dress, to dance and squirt each other with foam.
Wild celebrations, meanwhile, continued in cities across Brazil including business hub Sao Paulo and the northeastern UNESCO heritage town of Olinda. – Rappler.com
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