We were in Rio de Janeiro during the week of Carnival. Our trip package included admission to the Best Of Carnival competition that took place at the Sambódromo the entire weekend after Ash Wednesday. This is a nationally televised competition between the samba schools of the Carnival celebration. A samba school is a group of people who perform as a team in Carnival. These schools consist of people of all genders, races, and social classes and can sometimes contain up to 4,000 members. There are dancers, drummers, floats, and singers. The purpose of the Saturday night competition that we attended was to determine which samba schools would advance to the Sunday night special group competition. The winning samba school gains prestige throughout Brazil.
We arrived at the Sambódromo around 10:30pm and were given admission tickets by our tour guides before exiting the bus. The Sambódromo looks like a big sports stadium with a street that runs right down the middle of it. It is on this street that the samba schools compete.
We entered the packed Sambódromo and found our seats. The seats were irrelevant because everyone was standing. The atmosphere was electrifying with all the samba music, the Carnival parade, and people dancing in the stands. The samba schools really went all out with elaborate costumes, pyrotechnics, and floats. There was float in the shape of a fire-breathing dragon and one in the shape of a globe to name a few. There were participants in very shiny and colorful costumes that seemed to make the street glitter as they paraded through. There were also some participants who weren't wearing much of anything. There were floats that contained topless women in g-strings, dancing and waving as they slowly rode through.
After a samba school promenaded all the way through the Sambódromo, the street cleaners would come through in their orange uniforms. They were a crowd favorite because they would start dancing to the samba music while they were sweeping. The crowd would erupt in applause and cheers.
The competition normally runs from 8pm to 6am the next morning during the weekend. After a while, it began to rain. Our tour company was running shuttles between the Sambódromo and the hotels at 1, 3, and 5am. My wife and I decided to take the 1am bus back to the hotel. I watched more of the competition on TV in our hotel room before finally falling to sleep.
If you are ever in Rio during the Carnival competitions, I very highly recommend going to see it live. A certain amount of tickets are allocated for international tourists. Although tickets go on sale in November, last minute tickets can sometimes be purchased through various hotels and tour companies.
Results 1-3of 3 Reviews
November 3, 2005
From journal Go to Carnival in Rio!
London, United Kingdom
May 15, 2005
Food is available here, too, but I wouldn’t get too excited – the food is provided by Bob’s Burgers only (Brazil’s answer to Mcdonald’s, and if you didn’t think it was possible, it tastes even worse!) – but it fills your stomach. More importantly, you can buy beer here and it’s not horrifically priced.
Obviously, different areas of seating are of different quality - we managed to get some tickets to one of the least prestigious sections (sector 13) for about £5 each. We were right at the end of the parade strip, so we didn't get to see too much of the dance routines, although these are projected on huge TV screen anyhow, but we did get to see the floats, the costumes, and the delirium as each float reached the finish. So it was money well spent! Of course, we couldn’t get a seat, but who wants to sit down when the music’s blaring and everyone in the parades are dancing their little butts off?
There are 14 samba schools in Rio – each from a different district. They spend all year preparing for Carnival, which has become an industry in itself, so be prepared for a pretty impressive show. Each samba has its own son,g too – the words to the songs are included in the programmes sold at Carnival so that people can join in and sing along.
The floats are seriously incredible – they look like they belong in Disney World, and each one has a different theme. One is assembled to look like an eagle, another has been made to look like a rocket, and another resembles a giant set of lips. The samba schools have been dressed appropriately, and the most amusing costumes was the school that all dressed as syringes – some of the floats have a message, too!
Each school has a beautiful lady to be their queen, They wear the skimpiest outfits of all, and some seem to be wearing nothing at all beyond a bit of paint and some sequins – very daring. These ladies are the ones that are photographed and adorn the covers of the magazines. Naomi Campbell was filling this role on one of the floats dressed in a magnificent costume. Although, as she stepped off, she was, of course, whipped off by her huge entourage of security, not posing for photos as the others were.
It’s a shame that the audience is so separated from the floats – it would have been nice to go down and have a jump about with them. I can’t help but feel that we got far more of a feel for the Carnival vibe and spirit from jumping about in the streets of Centro during the Carnival period. Maybe next time it would be worth paying to join one of the samba schools and actually become a part of this amazing display.
From journal Carnival in Rio de Janeiro
May 3, 2005
From journal Brazil Trip - Rio de Janeiro