Page last updated at 11:37 GMT, Tuesday, 24 February 2009

In pictures: Carnival time in Rio

Samba dancer

Dancing beauties wearing little more than sequins and smiles wrapped up two nights of Carnival parades by Brazil's top samba schools in Rio de Janeiro.

Porto da Pedra samba school dancers

The spectacular floats and costumes take months to make and the competition between samba schools is fierce.

Portela samba school dancers

More than 70,000 people packed Rio's purpose-built Sambadrome for the traditional pre-Lent celebrations. Festivities continued throughout the streets of the city.

Beija-Flor samba school dancers

Elements being judged include choreography, timing and harmony. Each school has 82 minutes to herd its dancing, singing troupe through the 700m-long stadium.

Carnival procession

Themes this year included environmental protection and the technology of the future.

Beija-Flor samba school dancers

The winning school will be named on Wednesday. No major prizes are given but the winners are celebrated across the country.

Beija-Flor samba school dancers

Security has been tight for the Rio carnival - although police say nearly 100 foreigners fell victim to robbers in the lead up to the event.

Mocidade de Padre Miguel samba school

Luxuriant costumes have to be painstakingly created and worn with care. A misplaced wing or feather can cost a school the title.

An Academicos do Grande Rio samba school dancer

In addition to strategically placed glitter, many performers wore enormous headdresses and dangerously tall high heels.

An Imperio Serrano samba school dancer

The global economic crisis has led to fewer corporate sponsors for this year’s event, but observers say the spectacle was unaffected.

Imperio Serrano samba school dancers

The government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva donated $3m (£2m) to help the samba schools pull through.

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