Arts & Entertainment

Rio de Janeiro city gov’t cancels this year’s Carnival

Rio de Janeiro, Jan 21 (efe-epa).- Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes on Thursday announced the cancellation of Carnival this year due to fact that the vaccination campaign against Covid-19 has only just begun in Brazil but also because organizers have relatively little time left to organize the celebration for next July, as had been scheduled.

“I have never hidden my passion for Carnival and the clear perception I have of the importance of this cultural occasion for our city, but it seems to me to be senseless for us to imagine that, at this point, we have the conditions for holding Carnival in July,” the mayor said on his Twitter account.

The Rio Carnival, one of the world’s most famous such celebrations, had been scheduled for February 2021 but the samba schools, which are responsible for staging the celebration’s huge and colorful dance parades, had already decided to postpone it until July due to the coronavirus pandemic, although they had conditioned that move on the availability of a vaccine and a well-under-way vaccination campaign.

Paes, a former mayor who took over the municipal government for the third time on Jan. 1 and who has never hidden his love for Carnival and for the Portela samba school, said that despite the economic losses that the cancellation would mean for the city, an event as large and complex as Carnival would be extraordinarily difficult to organize within only six months.

“This celebration demands great preparation on the part of the public entities and by the unions and institutions linked to samba. That’s something impossible to do at the moment. Thus, I’d like to announce that we will not have Carnival in the middle of 2021,” the mayor said on the social networks.

According to Paes, in 2022, when both the Carnival dancers and other participants as well as the multitudes of tourists who arrive in the city for the gigantic fete will presumably have been vaccinated, “we will celebrate the life and our culture with all the intensity it deserves.”

The mayor also said that he has already asked the appropriate municipal organizations to get alternative projects under way to guarantee the economic support and a minimum income in 2021 for the people who make their livelihoods from the Shrovetide events.

Carnival is Rio’s main tourist event and last year it drew 2.1 million visitors to the city, of whom 483,000 were foreigners, who spent a total of $900 million and made the city Brazil’s main tourist destination.

Last November, the main Rio samba schools that participate in the city’s Carnival celebrations had announced their decision to cancel the traditional samba parades scheduled for February and to hold them on July 10-11 instead, but that had been predicated on having a widespread vaccination program already well under way.

The City Hall already had expressed its concern about the huge crowds that no doubt would flock to Carnival and how that could aggravate the health situation in Brazil, the world’s No. 2 country in terms of Covid deaths, after the US, with some 213,000 fatalities so far, and the No. 3 country – after the US and India – in numbers of confirmed cases.

The samba school parades, considered to be the world’s largest open-air show and the celebration’s main attraction, are held on two consecutive nights in the city’s Sambodrome before some 145,000 spectators, not counting the 5,000 members of each of the 14 schools and the thousands of staffers necessary to stage-manage the boisterous event.

Social distancing and other appropriate health considerations can hardly be observed during such a show, especially among the strenuously dancing samba school participants, not to mention the thousands of tightly packed spectators.

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