Rio's mayor hands over power to King Momo: Carnival starts
By Diana Renee Mar 4, 2011, 19:40 GMT
Rio de Janeiro\'s mayor, Eduardo Paes (L), hands the keys of the city to \'King Momo\' (considered the king of Carnivals in numerous Latin American festivities) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 04 March 2011. Brazil will celebrate during five days it\'s Carnival in a big party attended by millions of people through the streets of the cities dancing samba with music parades. EPA/ANTONIO LACERDA
Rio de Janeiro - Carnival festivities in Rio de Janeiro were officially launched Friday, as Mayor Eduardo Paes symbolically handed over the city's keys to King Momo, the Carnival character who is set to rule Rio through Tuesday with the mission of sowing joy among locals and thousands of tourists.
'I declare the Rio de Janeiro Carnival open,' Paes said.
'I hope people enjoy the party safely, without fighting and looking after the city's cultural heritage,' he added.
Paes handed command of the city to Milton Rodrigues, who has been the king of the world-famous Rio Carnival since 2008.
'I feel great pride for being a part of this event for the third year in a row,' King Momo said, flanked by three beautiful women who had been chosen as the queen and the princesses of the Carnival.
The event in central Rio moved to the beat of the percussionists of the samba school Unidos da Tijuca, the winner of last year's Carnival.
City authorities expect this year's Carnival to be the safest in recent history, amid the occupation of 16 Rio 'favelas' (slums) by police. Some of the occupied favelas, which police say were previously controlled by drug gangs, are close to the Sambadrome, the purpose-built stadium where the city's samba schools are set to compete late Sunday and Monday.
At the Sambadrome, security is set to be enforced through the use of video cameras which are to send footage to a brand new control centre. This way, city authorities expect to be able to reduce the number of police officers patrolling the Sambadrome and to deploy elsewhere in Rio most of the 49,785 officers that are to maintain law and order while Carnival lasts.
There are set to be around 1,000 fewer officers on the streets than last year, but that should not matter.
'There will be a smaller contingent, but there will be a lot more security,' police spokesman Lima Castro said Thursday.
Close to 3,000 police vehicles and four helicopters are to support officers on the ground.
The Brazilian Hotel Association said that the average occupancy rate in Rio de Janeiro's hotels reached 95 per cent Friday.
Occupancy was as high as 99 per cent in hotels in the city centre and other neighbourhoods near the Sambadrome.
Along the elegant beaches of the neighbourhoods of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon, 95-97 per cent of the rooms were taken.
Further, a survey conducted by city authorities indicates that an unusually high number of locals, 73 per cent, intend to stay in the city for Carnival this year.
Paes said this was due to an increase in street parties and informal Carnival groups, who tour neighbourhoods over the four days of Carnival celebrations ending in the early hours of Wednesday.
'There was a time when people who did not have tickets for the parade of the samba schools left Rio. Now, with the 'blocos' (more informal Carnival groups) on several streets and with the parties, Carnival in the city is unmissable,' Paes said.
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