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By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – As the city’s biggest celebration, Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival attracts millions of visitors and spectators every year and the competitive samba school parades that take place in Sambódromo are one of the largest and most internationally recognized parts of the annual pre-Lenten celebrations.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News, Brazil, Sambódromo, Carnival 2015, Marquês da Sapucaí, Série A, Carnival Competition, Samba Parades
The Sambódromo consists of a 700m avenue for parading that ends in the Praça da Apoteose (Apotheosis Square), photo by Marco Antonio Cavalcante/Riotur.

Designed by famous Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, the Sambódromo, also known as the Marquês da Sapucaí, was built in 1984 and renovated in 2012.

Now with additional seating the Sambódromo boasts a capacity for over 90,000 spectators. The structure consists of a 700 meter avenue for parading that is lined with bleachers and seating on both sides and ends in the Praça da Apoteose (Apotheosis Square).

During Carnival this year, the structure will host five nights of parades, many of which will be broadcast around the world.

The Série A group competitions are first and will take place during the nights of Friday, February 13th and Saturday, February 14th. Next on the 15th and 16th, the Grupo Especial (Special Group) schools parade, vying to become the 2015 Carnival Champion. During the final night, which will take place later on February 21st, the Champions’ Parade will feature the processions of the six highest scoring schools from the Special Group.

Ticket prices for the Carnival parades vary depending on the chosen night, the location and type of seating. The Championship parade and Série A nights are generally cheaper than the tickets for the Special Group nights. Although, the Série A nights are not the main championship competition, the parades are as exciting and important, as the winning samba school from the Série A group (formerly the Access Group) will move into the Special Group in 2016.

For seating, the Sambódromo is divided into thirteen odd and even-numbered sectors. The parades begin in front of sectors two and three and finish at sector thirteen, under the arched monument in the Apotheosis Square.

Within the thirteen sectors, seating types include the camarotes (closed boxes or luxury suites), frisas (open boxes located below the camarotes), arquibancadas (grandstand seats), and the cadeiras numeradas (private, numbered chairs).

Map of the renovated Sambódromo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Map of the renovated Sambódromo, image courtesy of Riotur (Click to expand).

The camarotes, found in sectors two through eleven, are considered to be the best seating option and are generally the most expensive. Perched at an elevated level, they offer great views of the entire parade. They also provide privacy, with most offering air-conditioning, buffets, drinks and various other VIP services.

The frisas, are generally less expensive and also offer privacy, although they do not have partitioned walls like the camarotes. Located underneath the camarotes in sectors two through thirteen, the frisas hold four to six occupants each.

Grandstand seating is located on the ground level in sectors two through thirteen. While spectators in these sections may not have the best view of the entire parade, this seating option is considered to be the most exhilarating due to the proximity to the avenue and to the parading schools. This is also the lowest priced seating option.

The cadeiras individuais are only available in sectors twelve and thirteen and are the second cheapest seats. However, sectors ten through thirteen are known for only providing views of the end of the parades.

Sectors two and three are known for their good views of the fireworks before the start of each parade while sectors four through seven are known for their panoramic views of the entire parade. Sector nine is reserved for tourists and offers numbered seating. Finally, sector eleven is the best place for percussion enthusiasts, as it is located by the ‘Recuo da Bateria’, where each school’s bateria (drum section) is known to briefly pause and play.

There are many ways to travel to the Sambódromo. Those going by subway/metro should get out at the “Central” or “Praça Onze” stops for even and odd numbered sectors respectively. Those traveling by taxi may find it helpful to tell their driver which sector they are seated in, so they arrive closest to their entrance.

This year the main parades will start at 9:30 PM, a half an hour later than previous years. The nights often run until 6AM or 7AM, so it’s advised to dress comfortably and take water. Also, those without numbered seats are advised to arrive a couple of hours in advance to secure the best possible spots with the best views in their designated areas.

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