By Fiona Hurrell, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – After a tough decision by the team of Carnival judges, Unidos da Tijuca was announced the 2012 Champion on Wednesday, February 22nd. The samba school, along with runners up, Salgueiro, Vila Isabel, Beija-Flor, Grande Rio and Portela returned to the Sambódromo to conclude Carnival 2012 as part of the Champions Parade.
The procession, which took place on Saturday, February 25th in front of 70,000 spectators, was led by Portela and continued in ascending order.
Portela, who placed sixth, paraded down the avenue for the final time this year, prompting a lively reaction from the crowd who danced happily to the schools official song which has remained considerably popular for the last ten years.
Grande Rio followed with a re-enactment of their theme about overcoming obstacles. The school has come a long way since the previous year when it suffered a huge setback following a fire just before Carnival. As a result, the school was eliminated from the 2011 judging but managed to make a significant comeback this year.
Last year’s champion, Beija-Flor, once again performed their theme regarding São Luís, part of the state of Maranhão. Carnival Director Luiz Fernando do Carmo, affectionately known as Laíla, revealed that the school has already chosen its theme for 2013 adding that preparations will begin immediately. Laíla also hinted that the themes subject would focus on the history of the Mangalarga Marchador, a breed of Horse, traditional in Brazil.
The Champions Parade was watched by a number of celebrities but perhaps the most special was an appearance by Brazilian architect and the man responsible for creating the Sambódromo, Oscar Niemeyer. The 104 year-old, national treasure, who will be the focus of União da Ilha’s 2013 theme, was wheeled by chair down part of the avenue ahead of Vila Isabel’s parade.
Vila Isabel, who were awarded the Gold Standard prize after their impressive performance on the first day of the Special Group parade, seemed a little less than satisfied with their third place score. A number of the school’s parade Alas took to the Sapucaí proudly displaying the words “Escola do Povo” meaning “School of the People.” They repeated their parade which depicted the similarities between Angola and Brazil.
Champion runner up, Salgueiro performed next with a replication of their theme ‘Cordel Branco’ which honored the cultural tradition of ‘cord literature,’ popular in the North East.
Finally at 02:30 AM, 2012’s Carnival Champion, Unidos da Tijuca made its victory parade amidst huge cheers from the crowds who had waited patiently to see the group take to the Sapucaí, honoring cherished composer Luiz Gonzaga.
Unidos da Tijuca’s Carnival designer Paulo Barros was unable to conceal his pride at the schools success and spoke of the strength and triumph of the winning theme. “Our difference is the work. People create myths that do not exist and said that I could not do national scenarios. The evidence is there. At Tijuca, everything is [made up of] the best. We arrived almost at the ideal.”
Not one to let the grass grow under his feet, Paulo Barros also hinted that the school are already giving thought to next year’s Carnival theme, though nothing has been decided yet.
The Champions Parade signifies the end of Carnival until next year, yet preparations are constantly being made by the tireless directors, set designers and costume designers ahead of the coming year’s event. For anyone who may have missed this year’s show or may be interested in being part of the school’s parade, visit the individual samba school websites for details about how to get involved.