By Ciara Long, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With 90,000 visitors pouring into the Sambódromo every night during Rio de Janeiro’s 2017 Carnival, the parade competitions are one of the city’s most celebrated tourist attractions.
This year’s competition starts on February 24th, will schools competing over the next four consecutive nights, and the top-ranking schools performing again on the following Saturday, March 4th.
Samba schools in Rio’s second league, known as Série A, will start the parade competition. The first six will perform on Friday February 24th, followed by the final six schools in the group competing on the next night, Saturday February 25th.
The next two nights will see samba schools from Rio’s Grupo Especial (Special Group) parade along the 700m-long Sambódromo avenue. These are the city’s highest ranking samba schools, and are competing to be crowned the champion school of Carnival on Sunday February 26th and Monday February 27th.
The results from the Série A and Grupo Especial competitions will be announced on Wednesday, March 1st, and the highest-scoring schools from this year’s competition will perform again on the evening of Saturday, March 4th.
Seats for the nightly 90,000 ticket-holders to the Sambódromo are divided into numbered sectors with different views, and each sector is also divided into different levels of comfort and price. Parades proceed from sectors two and three to thirteen, and finish on the Praça da Apoteose (Apotheosis Square) under the Sambódromo’s famous arches.
Spectators may choose sectors two or three for the view of the fireworks that signal the start of each parade, while sectors four to seven for panoramic views of the parade, and sector nine has numbered seating and is reserved for tourists.
Sector eleven, meanwhile, is popular because of its location close to the ‘Recuo da Bateria’, where each samba school’s bacteria (percussion section) pauses briefly to play.
Most tourists will choose the arquibancada (bleachers), which provide the majority of the Sambódromo’s seating and are the cheapest option. Arquibancadas are located at ground level and line the length of the Sambódromo. While they may lack the view of higher-up seating, they are considered desirable due to the proximity to the performers and the convivial atmosphere.
Those wishing for more comfortable options may opt for the cadeiras numeradas (private, numbered chairs) found in sectors twelve and thirteen, the the camarotes (closed boxes or luxury suites) or the frisas (open boxes located below the camarotes).
Camarotes typically offer more privacy and an elevated view of the parade, and are the highest-priced seating option. Many will also offer VIP services including air-conditioning, buffet and drinks. Frisas, which are a little less expensive, also offer some privacy and a slightly more elevated view of the parades.
The Sambódromo is accessible by both public and private transport. For those arriving by metro, the closest stations are Central and Praça Onze, while those arriving by taxi or by Uber will be able to tell their driver which sector their seats are in to be dropped at the closest entrance.
Parade competitions often continue until 6AM or 7AM, so comfortable clothing and shoes are advised, as is bringing water to stay hydrated. Those in the arquibancada without numbered seats should also try to arrive a couple of hours early to secure the spots with the best views in their sector.
This year’s Série A parade competition evenings and the Grupo Especial competition are all scheduled to start at 10PM in the Sambódromo. Results will be released on Ash Wednesday, which is March 1st this year, and the Champion’s Parade will see the highest-ranked schools performing from 10PM on Saturday, March 4th.