A trip to Rio de Janeiro during Carnival is something no traveller will ever forget.
Brazil's biggest annual festival is a spectacle like no other, but what first may appear to be simply an extravagant and colourful parade, is actually a fiercely-contested competition.
Each Escola de Samba (samba school) competes against each other in the contest, with all of them being ranked into divisions.
In total there are more than 70 competitive samba schools in six divisions: the Special Group (Grupo Especial) and Groups A, B, C, D and E.
During the hectic four days of carnival, all schools compete, but only those in the top three divisions will appear at the Sambodromo, the 700-metre, purpose-built arena.
The Special Group consists of the 12 highest-ranking samba schools. This year the schools competing from that group are: Inocentes de B. Roxo, Salgueiro, Unidos da Tijuca, União da Ilha, Mocidade, Portela, São Clemente, Mangueira, Beija-flor, Grande Rio, Imperatriz and Vila Isabel.
When asked if Carnival was more exciting to watch than Brazil's other passion, football, Elaine Maciel, Niterói resident, told The Rio Times, "Yes, because you see a lot of celebrities in the parade. The scoring is just a part of the whole experience but it is something to pay attention to if you watch the parade. They go together."
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