By Fiona Hurrell, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The anticipation is finally over and Carnival 2013 has arrived with Rio embracing yet another of its most popular and important annual traditions. Having received a reported 1.1 million people at Carnival 2012, experts predict an increase in numbers this year, bringing even more revenues to Brazil’s growing economy.
Ana Christina Fiedler from Riotur, the city’s official tourist guide, reveals, “Carnival is the biggest event of the city’s fixed calendar and this year it will generate an income of US$665 million [approximately R$1.2 billion]. Moreover, the party is part of the culture of the people of Rio. Each year it grows, both in size and in importance both for tourism and our organization.”
In addition, the Brazilian Association of the Hotel Industry in Rio de Janeiro (ABIH-RJ) has confirmed that 80.06 percent of the city’s hotel rooms are now occupied. Through internal research, President of ABIH-RJ Alfredo Lopes goes on to predict that the final occupancy figure will hit 98 percent – exceeding that of 2012 which reached 95.17 percent.
Interestingly, the ABIH-RJ’s findings have highlighted some changes, most notably that the tourists expected at this year’s Carnival will be different from the previous years, predicting an increase of domestic tourists over foreign tourists.
Whether from Brazil or elsewhere, for most, the excitement of seeing Rio’s samba schools parade at the Sambódromo on February 10th and 11th is a once in a lifetime opportunity. As usual, this year no expense has been spared as the schools fervently prepare to dazzle audiences and compete for that coveted position at the top of the Grupo Especial (Special Group).
Last year’s champion Unidos da Tijuca, who won with their impressive tribute to composer Luis Gonzaga, face stiff competition from Runner-up Beija-Flor. Out of the more popular are also Salgueiro and Mocidade and Mangueira, who are the oldest and most traditional of the Special Group and have a loyal Brazilian fan base.
For some, however, being a spectator is simply not enough. Australian expatriate in Rio, Fiona Lawson, will be taking part in the Carnival this year as a dancer with São Clemente, the first school to perform on Monday, February 11th. She shares, “Being part of Carnival is a dream come true. I watched the schools parade last year and knew that I wanted to be a part of it.”
As the atmosphere on the Sapucaí (Runway) becomes tense so are things in the stands where it isn’t only the samba schools embroiled in competition. Carnival sponsors and household brands Brahma (Beer manufacturer) and Devassa (food and restaurant chain) will be battling it out for the most press attention over their celebrity guests.
American film star Megan Fox will be attending the Brahma box as a special guest while in the Devassa area famous Brazilian actress Alinne Moraes will watch the Carnival performances.
While samba schools parade at the Sambódromo, elsewhere in the city lively blocos (street parties) will be taking place through the long holiday weekend. Blocos start weeks before Carnival and already there has been a number taking place across the city.
Luckily for revelers, Rio has announced sixteen percent more blocos in 2013, ensuring everyone will have plenty of chances to experience as much bloco action as they can manage. Some of the most famous blocos include Banda de Ipanema, which will gather at Praça General Osorio on February 9th and 12th or Cordão da Bola Preta in Centro which will take place on February 9th-12th.
People are advised to follow the bloco schedule in The Rio Times where a short summary will be given on each bloco, some of which are more suited to a younger crowd and others which are dedicated to families and are therefore more relaxed.