By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Over one million tourists are expected to attend the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Carnival festivities and hundreds of thousands of those visitors will make their way to the competitive samba school parades that will take place on February 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 13th in the city’s famed Sambódromo, or Sambadrome as its known in English.
The five nights of parades in the Sambódromo include two nights of Série A (formerly Group A and Access Group) parades on February 5th and 6th; two nights of Grupo Especial competition on February 7th and 8th; and following the announcement of this year’s results on the 9th, the top ranked schools will parade down the Sambódromo again on February 13th.
Boasting a capacity for over 90,000 spectators, the Sambódromo was designed by famous Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. Also known as the Marquês da Sapucaí, the Sambódromo was built in 1984 and recently renovated in 2012.
This year with concerns over the rising outbreak of the Zika virus, health workers and inspectors have taken special care to spray insecticide in and around the Sambódromo to combat the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes which transmit the virus.
The Sambódromo structure consists of a 700 meter avenue for parading that is lined with bleachers and seating on both sides. The seating areas are 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 area known as the Praça da Apoteose (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).
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 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 9PM on the Série A competition nights, February 5th and 6th and at 9:30 PM for the Special Group competition night on February 7th and 8th. The top ranked schools will then parade again on Saturday, February 13th.
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.