Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival celebrations have kicked off amid an avalanche of bad news.

February 14, 2015 6:07 pm
The five days of over-the-top parades and raucous, alcohol-soaked
street parties that make up Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival celebrations have
kicked off amid an avalanche of bad , including more evidence of
Brazil’s stalling economy, an ongoing drought and a snowballing
corruption scandal at state-run oil giant Petrobras.
In the
annual ceremony that marks the official start of the festivities, Rio
mayor Eduardo Paes handed over the keys of the city to King Momo, the
mythical jester who reigns over the extravaganza.
Musicians from
Unidos da Tijuca, the samba group that won last year’s flamboyant parade
competition, played a medley of the samba classics that make up the
city’s tried and true Carnival soundtrack as a few dancers showed off
their fancy footwork.

King Momo accepts the key to the city from Rio mayor Eduardo Paes. Photo / AP
Paes acknowledged that times are tough, but suggested Carnival would bring a welcome respite.

“We have lots of problems, lots of challenges and lots of
defects,” he said, “but we are very proud to live in a city like Rio de
Janeiro.”
Paes said the festivities were sure to bring more than a
dose of fun: over 450 street parties were expected to bring nearly 1
million tourists out on to the streets. The visitors are expected to
inject around US$780 million ($1 billion) into the local economy, he
said.
Still, many residents complain that the “blocos”, popular
street parties, snarl traffic, generate tonnes of litter and generally
complicate daily life, particularly in areas such as Ipanema and
Copacabana. Both beachside neighbourhoods are epicentres of the
“blocos”, which are dedicated to everything from Michael Jackson to
Super Mario Brothers and see revellers dress up to , sing, parade
and down prodigious amounts of beer under the scorching sun.
With
the corruption scandal at Petrobras making headlines daily for the past
year, petroleum-themed Carnival costumes were expected to prove among
this year’s most popular. Carnival wraps up on Wednesday after
all-night-long samba group parades.

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