Six of Rio de Janeiro's top samba troupes staged spectacular carnival parades in the city's huge Sambadrome venue. More than 4,000 performers danced along the parade route to the delight of 78,000 fans seated in the arena. Twelve of the city's top-tier samba schools, known as the Grupo Especial, competed against one another over two nights. Each samba school depicts a story of historic or allegorical significance through choreographed song, dance and costume. The Estacio de Sa troupe was the first school to parade at this year's Rio Carnival, with costumes and floats that paid tribute to Christian martyr Saint George.

Rio Carnival 2016 Estacio de Sa
Estacio de Sa samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromePilar Olivares/Reuters
Rio Carnival 2016 Estacio de Sa
Estacio de Sa samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Estacio de Sa
Estacio de Sa samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeRicardo Moraes/Reuters
Rio Carnival 2016 Estacio de Sa
Estacio de Sa samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromePilar Olivares/Reuters
Rio Carnival 2016 Estacio de Sa
Estacio de Sa samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeSergio Moraes/Reuters
Rio Carnival 2016 Estacio de Sa
Estacio de Sa samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeChristophe Simon/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Estacio de Sa
Estacio de Sa samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeChristophe Simon/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Estacio de Sa
Estacio de Sa samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeSergio Moraes/Reuters

The second school to parade along the samba avenue was the Uniao da Ilha, depicting Rio's famous landmarks to celebrate this year's summer Olympic Games. The floats included a Christ the Redeemer statue and scenes of the city's Alemao slum, located near one of Rio's Olympic venues.

Rio Carnival 2016 Uniao da Ilha do Governador
Uniao da Ilha do Governador samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Uniao da Ilha do Governador
Uniao da Ilha do Governador samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromePilar Olivares/Reuters
Rio Carnival 2016 Uniao da Ilha do Governador
Uniao da Ilha do Governador samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeVanderlei Almeida/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Uniao da Ilha do Governador
Uniao da Ilha do Governador samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeVanderlei Almeida/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Uniao da Ilha do Governador
Uniao da Ilha do Governador samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Uniao da Ilha do Governador
Uniao da Ilha do Governador samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeVanderlei Almeida/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Uniao da Ilha do Governador
Uniao da Ilha do Governador samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Uniao da Ilha do Governador
Uniao da Ilha samba school's Drum Queen Bianca LeaoPilar Olivares/Reuters
Rio Carnival 2016 Uniao da Ilha do Governador
Uniao da Ilha do Governador samba school's Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeSergio Moraes/Reuters
Rio Carnival 2016 Uniao da Ilha do Governador
Uniao da Ilha do Governador samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeVanderlei Almeida/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Uniao da Ilha do Governador
Uniao da Ilha do Governador samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeSergio Moraes/Reuters
Rio Carnival 2016 Uniao da Ilha do Governador
Uniao da Ilha do Governador samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Uniao da Ilha do Governador
Uniao da Ilha do Governador samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP

Last year's carnival champions, the Beija-Flor samba school, were up next, with baroque costumes and a lot of gold.

Rio Carnival 2016 Beija-Flor
Beija-Flor samba school's Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeVanderlei Almeida/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Beija-Flor
Beija-Flor samba school's Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeChristophe Simon/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Beija-Flor
Beija-Flor samba school's Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeChristophe Simon/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Beija-Flor
Beija-Flor samba school's Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeChristophe Simon/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Beija-Flor
Beija-Flor samba school's Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeChristophe Simon/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Beija-Flor
Beija-Flor samba school's Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeVanderlei Almeida/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Beija-Flor
Beija-Flor samba school's Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro's SambadromePilar Olivares/Reuters
Rio Carnival 2016 Beija-Flor
Beija-Flor samba school's Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeChristophe Simon/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Beija-Flor
Beija-Flor samba school's Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeSergio Moraes/Reuters
Rio Carnival 2016 Beija-Flor
Beija-Flor samba school's Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeVanderlei Almeida/AFP

The Grande Rio samba school paid tribute to Brazil's sporting heroes such as Pele and Neymar, as well as telling the story of the city of Santos.

Rio Carnival 2016 Grande Rio
Grande Rio samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Grande Rio
Grande Rio samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Grande Rio
Grande Rio samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Grande Rio
Grande Rio samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Grande Rio
Grande Rio samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Grande Rio
Grande Rio samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Grande Rio
Grande Rio samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromePilar Olivares/Reuters
Rio Carnival 2016 Grande Rio
Grande Rio samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Grande Rio
Grande Rio samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeSergio Moraes/Reuters
Rio Carnival 2016 Grande Rio
Grande Rio samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Grande Rio
Grande Rio samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Grande Rio
Grande Rio samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP

The penultimate samba school was Mocidade de Padre Miguel, trying to break their 19-year drought in the carnival parade championships.

Rio Carnival 2016 Mocidade de Padre Miguel
Mocidade de Padre Miguel samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeVanderlei Almeida/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Mocidade de Padre Miguel
Mocidade samba school Drum Queen Claudia LeittePilar Olivares/Reuters
Rio Carnival 2016 Mocidade de Padre Miguel
Mocidade de Padre Miguel samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeVanderlei Almeida/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Mocidade de Padre Miguel
Mocidade de Padre Miguel samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeSergio Moraes/Reuters
Rio Carnival 2016 Mocidade de Padre Miguel
Mocidade de Padre Miguel samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeVanderlei Almeida/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Mocidade de Padre Miguel
Mocidade de Padre Miguel samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeVanderlei Almeida/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Mocidade de Padre Miguel
Mocidade de Padre Miguel samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeSergio Moraes/Reuters
Rio Carnival 2016 Mocidade de Padre Miguel
Mocidade de Padre Miguel samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeSergio Moraes/Reuters

The last school to parade in the Sambadrome was Unidos da Tijuca, with costumes that paid tribute to the city of Sorriso in Mato Grosso state, known as the soybean capital.

Rio Carnival 2016 Unidos da Tijuca
Unidos da Tijuca samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Unidos da Tijuca
Unidos da Tijuca samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Unidos da Tijuca
Unidos da Tijuca samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Unidos da Tijuca
Unidos da Tijuca samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Unidos da Tijuca
Unidos da Tijuca samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeSergio Moraes/Reuters
Rio Carnival 2016 Unidos da Tijuca
Unidos da Tijuca samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Unidos da Tijuca
Unidos da Tijuca samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Unidos da Tijuca
Unidos da Tijuca samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Unidos da Tijuca
Unidos da Tijuca samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP
Rio Carnival 2016 Unidos da Tijuca
Unidos da Tijuca samba school's Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro's SambadromeYasuyoshi Chiba/AFP

Six more samba schools are set to parade on Monday night (8 February), with the best six competing again in the finals on Saturday 13 February.