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Sambadrome showdown: Inside Rio carnival's big battle

Felipe Dana / AP

A Dancer of Porto da Pedra samba school parades on a float during carnival celebrations at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Feb. 20, 2012.

Felipe Dana / AP

Dancers of Vila Isabel samba school parade at the Sambadrome on Feb. 20, 2012.

Felipe Dana / AP

A dancer from the Mocidade samba school parades on a float at the Sambadrome on Feb. 20, 2012.

Victor R. Caivano / AP

Revelers, some wearing costumes, cross a bridge as they arrive at the Sambadrome on Feb. 19, 2012.

Nacho Doce / Reuters

Children play as adults watch the Portela samba school parade at the Sambadrome on Feb. 19, 2012.

Silvia Izquierdo / AP

Performers from the Beija Flor samba school parade at the Sambadrome on Feb. 20, 2012.

Thousands of revelers gathered at the Sambadrome Sunday night for the crown jewel of Rio carnival as thirteen samba schools vied for a prize. Their elaborate floats, massive percussion sections and troupes of sequin and feather-clad dancers made their way down the avenue as spectators looked on from the bleachers.

David Mercado / Reuters

From Rio de Janeiro to Venice revelers took to the streets in colorful costumes.

On Saturday, a record-breaking 2.2 million people had attended the Cordao da Bola Preta parade, one of the city's oldest carnival street parties, the BBC reports.

The authorities see the five-day event as a crucial test for Rio's new central command center, which the city hopes will be a key to keeping order when it hosts 2014 soccer World Cup matches and the 2016 Olympics.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Victor R. Caivano / AP

A man sleeps on litter-filled stands at the end of the first day of carnival parades at the Sambadrome on Feb. 20, 2012.