Brazil's Carnaval has a winner. For the second time in a row and the fifth time in six years, Samba School Beija Flor, which presented glittering floats and armies of dancers, won the prize as number 1. A Carnaval procession that paid extravagant homage to the legends of northern Brazil was named the winner of this year's spectacular Carnaval parades in Rio de Janeiro, in southeastern Brazil.
In Brazil such honor is treated with all the pomp and respect of a football championship trophy. It injects a strong dose of national pride to the usually poor neighborhood, or slum, in which many of the samba schools have their roots.
For Beija Flor, which comes from the Rio suburb of Nilópolis, it also confirmed a winning streak that was tarnished last year when suspicions surfaced that it manipulated its way to its 2007 win.
At the time, there were allegations that it intimidated jury members. Its honorary president, Aniz David, was detained during the investigation, along with several Carnaval directors.
"This is evidence that our 2007 title was not bullied" one of the members of the school's management declared after the jury's verdict on this year's parades was made public.
Beija Flor gave Brazilian mythology imaginative and grand treatment, sending out eight palatial floats depicting jungle giants, fictional animals and 4,200 costumed dancers, as well as the traditional "drum queens", beautiful models wearing little more than sequins and feathers.
Its entire show was estimated to have cost more than four million dollars. The money and effort paid off when the jury gave the school a score of 399.3 points out of a possible 400, handing Beija Flor its 10th title and making it the dominant group of the last two decades.
Rio's fantastic parades are the climax of Brazil's Carnaval celebrations, which each year anticipate the traditional Christian fasting period of Lent.
Although tourists delight in the two nights of extravagant displays, the 12 schools unveiling their elaborate entries are in fact locked in a fierce competition to be named winner.
Juries assess each of the processions – which take 80 minutes to pass the Sambadrome stands bursting with 70,000 people – on the musical and visual execution of the chosen themes, which are often political or social in nature.