Carnival glory for dancers who hailed Senna

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IOL pic mar6 Brazil Carnival Associated Press A performer from the Grande Rio samba school parades on a float during carnival celebrations at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Picture: Felipe Dana

Rio de Janeiro -

Rio on Wednesday elected the Unidos Da Tijuca samba school as its Carnival champions, a 40-strong jury crowning a programme which paid homage to late Brazilian Formula One racer Ayrton Senna.

The champions chose speed as their theme for their Monday parade, in which their 3 600-strong troupe honoured the memory of national idol Senna, killed in a crash at the San Marino Grand Prix 20 years ago.

Unidos Da Tijuca also paid tribute to Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt, featuring a runner dressed in Jamaican kit during a parade which wowed 72 000 spectators at a packed Sambadrome.

The elite dance school, whose routine featured a Formula One car and mini race track, just pipped nearest rivals Salgueiro by one tenth of a point to land their third title in the past five years.

After the jury announced the result, having judged criteria such as samba style, costumes and floats, 10 000 supporters of the champions gathered at their headquarters for an all-night celebration party.

Imperio da Tijuca were meanwhile relegated from the elite section after coming last.

Although this year's Carnival officially ended on Tuesday night, the top six schools will appear again in Saturday's Champions' Parade.

One of Rio's oldest samba schools having been formed in December 1931, Unidos Da Tijuca represent several slums or favelas in the western Tijuca area.

Four million people, including 918 000 tourists, participated in this year's Rio Carnival, the world's biggest street party, featuring 500 street parades as well as the two nights of elite parades. - Sapa-AFP

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