Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's third largest city and the heart of the rich Afro-Brazilian culture, led the way with hundreds of thousands of revelers pouring into the streets late Thursday to dance and celebrate in anticipation of Carnival’s opening on Friday.
For five days 191 million Brazilians virtually stop what they are doing to celebrate Carnival with samba beats and an extravaganza broadcasted to a worldwide television audience. The festival is officially opened by the Carnival King Momo.
"Momo" is the name of the god of mockery in the Greek mythology, and according to Carnival tradition, King Momo should be jolly and as big as a house. Legend suggests that he was expelled from the Olympus to come and settle down in Rio, the City of Carnival. The Rio Carnival officially opens with the delivery of the key of the city to King Momo.
When King Momo sambas, everything and everyone - sequins, feathers, flesh and all people around should also samba with him. He opens all major Carnival events including the Samba Parades. This year they expect 5 million to participate in the biggest parade in the world. The city will draw 850,000 visitors during the 5 day event.
This year’s king is especially “big as a house” as he is flanked by his queen and two princesses, the blue-crowned king, weighs in a 352 pound. Milton Junior, symbolically received a giant key to the city from Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes.
"Salute to King Momo's royal family. I transferred my mayoral duties and all the city powers to him," said Paes.
"It's an enormous responsibility to lead the world's biggest cultural festival. I declare the Rio Carnival open," said King Momo, the Carnival's symbol of overweight excess, according to France24.
The dazzling parades of lavishly decorated floats and scores of scantily dressed women in the Sambadrome, the hallowed "temple of Samba", Sunday night and Monday night.
Fears that unrest in Brazil's state police force might disrupt the festivities in Salvador and Rio did not materialize as police strikes in those cities were settled just in time.
The event is an economic boom for the city of Rio as officials said they expect more than five million people, including 850,000 tourists, to enjoy the annual pre-Lent festival, which generates 250,000 jobs and revenues of $640 million for hotels, bars and restaurants, according to state estimates.
On Saturday, more than two million people were expected to enjoy some beer-fueled merrymaking with Bola Preta, one of the city's most popular blocos -- street parties.
Sunday, Rio's top 13 competing samba schools will vie for the title of Carnival champion, a spectacular contest watched with the same fervor as football matches in this soccer-mad nation.
VIDEO Samba Dancers