By Vânia Maciel, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – After much anxiety the winner of the contest between the top twelve Samba schools of Rio de Janeiro, was announced early evening this Ash Wednesday. The competition is much disputed and any decimal of a point is decisive to win or loose a title.
The motivation for winning goes beyond the honor of being the best of the best, it is also crucial for Samba schools to get work contracts and assignments in Brazil and abroad. Rio’s Carnival is big business after all.
In third place came Mangueira, followed respectively by Vila Isabel, Salgueiro and Imperatriz Leopoldinense. The schools excluded from the competitive scoring by the fire in the Cidade do Samba last month were; Portela, União da Ilha and Grande Rio.
There were few surprises, Mocidade who had been very well praised by many, ended up on the seventh place, and Salgueiro which were not expected amongst the top six, landed on fifth. This certainly cheered up Salgueiro fans who were afraid they would not be on the Champions parade next Saturday on the Sapucaí.
The scoring was not free of controversy, many disagreed with the overall results, and accused the jurors of incompetence and favoritism. The claims were about low grades given to some Samba schools which were, in many minds, obviously wrong. As in the case of Mangueira’s bateria points, that by the opinion of many specialists, should have had a thirty points instead of the 29.8.
Beija-Flor’s victory though was expected by some because the school paid tribute to one of most loved Brazilian song writers Roberto Carlos, also know as The King. And the emotional rapport that was established between audience and Samba school during the parade was bound to spill over onto the jurors.
Some also analyzed the result within the context of historic trends, as most times when a Rio Samba school pays tribute to a favorite Brazilian musician, they ended up taking the title, and history has a knack of repeating itself.
During the parade there were children surrounding The King, sacred imagery representing the religious ethos of the singer with Holy Mothers parading down the Sambódromo. All this symbolism predictably touched deep into Carioca’s hearts and minds, as most Brazilians are Christians to some extent.
The Nilópolis neighborhood in Rio suburbs, where the winning Samba school comes from, is having an extended Carnival. On Wednesday evening, there were still 8,000 people – including The King who was there to thank the school for the tribute – packing Beija-Flor’s quadra. This is the twelfth time Beija-Flor has won first place prize at the Sambódromo Carnival.
On Saturday the top six Samba schools will parade in full glory for the Champions’ parade, tickets are almost sold out and it is the last opportunity to see Samba schools performing at the Sambódromo this year.