RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Cleanup crews replaced raucous street bands and exhausted revelers took a break from dawn-to-dawn parties as Rio prepared to wrap up one of its biggest Carnival celebrations Wednesday with the highly anticipated announcement of this year’s samba champion.
The pre-Lent celebrations that began last Friday attracted 250,000 more people than expected, bringing an estimated $500 million in revenue to the seaside city that will host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.
First-time visitors to the never-ending revelry were exhausted.
“I didn’t realize it would literally go on all the time,” said Rosie Wigmore, a 19-year-old visitor from Brighton, England, who tried to veer off the Carnival path and visit an art gallery, only to be swept up in yet another street band’s entourage.
“You would never have this in England,” she said. “If you had this many people, and everyone drinking, you’d have fights.”
Another 20 or so street parties were still planned around town Wednesday, in a slight bending of tradition, which dictates that Carnival ends at noontime Ash Wednesday.
About 450 street bands paraded this year, the Rio tourism department said, while the city received an estimated 1 million visitors, above the expected 750,000. About 40 percent of them were foreign.
With free-for-all street parties winding down, Rio residents turned their attention to the samba parade competition. Officials were to cap off the celebrations Wednesday night with the announcement of which of the dance groups has won top prize for best presentation in the formal two-day Carnival parades.
In a city where allegiances to Carnival groups runs deep, rivaling residents’ dedication to football teams, the announcement of this year’s winner was eagerly awaited.
Three elite samba groups heavily affected by a warehouse fire a month ago were allowed to parade without competing, so as to not to risk landing in last place, which would automatically demote them to a lower league of competitors.