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Rio Carnival is as eye-popping as ever

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Glistening with sequins and sweat and shimmying to sultry samba beats, thousands of performers danced their way down a Rio de Janeiro avenue on Sunday as the Brazilian beach city's famed carnival parades got into full swing.

With whimsical floats, thundering drum sections and legions of performers in fanciful, flesh-flaunting costumes, 12 samba schools are competing for the coveted title of carnival champions across two nights of epic booty shaking.

A capacity crowd of 70,000 spectators cheered from the packed stands of the Sambadrome stadium, the city's purpose-built parade venue, with millions more expected to watch live on TV.

Rio has already been celebrating carnival for weeks with colourful, free-for-all street parties known as 'blocos'.

Sunday and Monday's parades are the climax: sumptuous festivals of colour and sound that last all night and into the next day. But there is more to carnival than all-night partying.

The samba schools are rooted in Rio's impoverished favela neighborhoods, and each parade tells a story, often dealing with politics, social issues and history, and each has 60 to 70 minutes to dazzle its way down 700 meters of Marques de Sapucai and impress a jury of judges who scrutinise the tiniest of details.

Potentially devastating fractions of points can be lost for being out of sync, running over time or lacking flair.

Thousands of performers danced their way down a Rio de Janeiro avenue on Sunday as the Brazilian beach city's famed carnival parades got into full swing. Pictured: Queen of drums, Viviane Araujo of Salgueiro performs during the carnival

With whimsical floats, thundering drum sections and legions of performers in fanciful, flesh-flaunting costumes, 12 samba schools are competing for the coveted title of carnival champions across two nights of epic booty shaking. Pictured: A member of Porto da Pedra waves to the crowds during Sunday's carnival in Rio. Porto da Pedra was set to lose precious points after suffering a pair of float mishaps - not uncommon at the parades. In one, a piece of a float broke right in front of the jury. In the other, a float got snagged on a metal security grate, dragging it and injuring a woman

A member of the Salgueiro samba school performs during the first night of the Carnival parade at the Marques de Sapucai Sambadrome

Performers from the Salgueiro samba school parade perform during Carnival celebrations at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro in the early hours of Monday morning

Carnival revellers from Beija-Flor samba school perform in the carnival in the early hours of Monday morning

Drum queen Paola Oliveira from Grande Rio samba school parades during Carnival celebrations at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, early on Monday

A capacity crowd of 70,000 spectators cheered from the packed stands of the Sambadrome stadium (pictured), the city's purpose-built parade venue, with millions more expected to watch live on TV

Revellers from Imperatriz Leopoldinense samba school perform this morning in Rio's famed carnival

Performers from the Unidos da Tijuca samba school are seen in the carnival during the early hours of Monday morning

Pink-clad revellers from Imperatriz Leopoldinense samba school perform during the early hours of Monday morning. The samba schools are rooted in Rio's impoverished favela neighborhoods, and each parade tells a story, often dealing with politics, social issues and history

A reveller from Imperatriz Leopoldinense samba school, dressed in a revealing sequined angelic costume performs during the night of the Carnival parade at the Sambadrome, in Rio de Janeiro, February 12

A reveller from Imperatriz Leopoldinense samba school in a silver sequined outfit takes in cheers from the crowd

Performers from the Unidos da Tijuca samba school are seen performing in the early hours of Monday

Each samba school has 60 to 70 minutes to dazzle its way down the 700 meters of Marques de Sapucai, the avenue through the concrete carnival parade temple designed by modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer. Pictured: Performers from the Unidos da Tijuca samba school take part in the carnival this morning

A jury judges each down to the minutest detail, with potentially devastating fractions of points deducted for being out of sync, running over time or lacking flair

Performer from the Unidos da Tijuca samba school is seen performing in the early hours of Monday morning

A carnival performer from the Unidos da Tijuca samba school is seen on a float decorated with snakes

Performers from the Unidos da Tijuca samba school parade on a float featuring a giant pink unicorn on Monday morning

A performer from the Unidos da Tijuca samba school in an elaborate costume performs on Monday morning

Performers from the Unidos da Tijuca samba school. Pulling together a show with more than 3,000 performers and a fleet of seemingly gravity-defying floats is no easy feat. The samba schools spend the entire year preparing - and often face a down-to-the-wire race to get ready

A reveller from Imperatriz Leopoldinense samba school performs during the night of the Carnival parade at the Sambadrome

Members of the Unidos da Tijuca samba school perform during the first night of the Carnival parade at the Marques de Sapucai Sambadrome

Members of the Unidos da Tijuca samba school perform during the first night of the Carnival parade

Revellers from Imperatriz Leopoldinense samba school perform under a floating 'moon', with one member of the school seen dangling below

A reveller from Imperatriz Leopoldinense samba school is seen on high wires as the school performs on Monday morning

Revellers from Grande Rio Samba School perform during the night of the Carnival parade at the Sambadrome

A reveller from Imperatriz Leopoldinense samba school, dressed as a lizard, performs during the carnival on Monday

Members of the Porto da Pedra samba school perform during the first night of the Carnival parade at the Marques de Sapucai Sambadrome on Sunday night

Members of the Unidos da Tijuca samba school parade during the Rio de Janeiro carnival. Invented a century ago by the descendants of African slaves, samba is one of the great symbols of Brazilian popular culture, and of Rio

A performer from the Unidos da Tijuca samba school parade during the Rio de Janeiro carnival

Performers from the Unidos da Tijuca samba school are seen on a vast golden float on Sunday night

Members of the Unidos da Tijuca samba school parade during the Rio de Janeiro carnival

Members of the Porto da Pedra samba school pose for a picture before the first night of the Carnival parade at the Marques de Sapucai Sambadrome

A member of the 'Bolo Doido' bate-bola street carnival group and his toddler get ready before a parade in a street at the Deodoro neighbourhood. Carnival is big business for Rio: the party is expected to generate 5.3billion reais (more than $1billion) in revenue this year

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