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This is the time of year travellers from around the world flock to the streets of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo in Brazil, to mingle with samba-dancing crowds, bikini-clad Brazilian beauties and people in outlandish costumes.

This is the time of the Rio Carnival - the street party against which all other carnivals in the world are measured.

Rio's famed Carnival was kicked off by the portly King Momo - the event's mascot (of a sort) under a stream of confetti and with lively music. The event, which started on Saturday 9 February, also boasted the first of many traditional parades through the city's Sambadrome.

Rio Carnival 2013 was declared officially open when Rio's Mayor, Eduardo Paes, handed the city's keys to King Momo, saying: "The time has come to hand over my duties to magnificent King Momo so that city may have fun under his rule. Let there be peace and joy."

King Momo then declared the event open. Despite weighing 150kg, he then broke into a graceful samba to woo the crowd.

This year, there is a sombre tinge to the event, which remembered the people who recently died in a nightclub fire. President Dilma Rousseff will not be taking part in the five-day event and will instead attend a memorial for the fire victims.

The Rio Carnival 2013 continues till Fat Tuesday (12 February) and more than a million people are expected to take to the streets, soaking in the colours and sounds of Brazil. The Carnival is staged across the country, in such cities as Salvadore, Recife, Olinda, Manaus and Porto Alegre.

Korean Memories

There will be a serious aspect to the Rio Carnival 2013, aside from remembrances for the victims of the nightclub fire. Rio Carnival 2013 will pay tribute to Korean immigrant workers.

And just for that, Korean pop sensation Psy is in Brazil and he will perform during the Carnival, with top Brazilian singers Claudia Leitte and Gilberto Gil.

Meanwhile, other international stars, such as actor Will Smith, rapper Kanye West and actress Megan Fox, will attend the Rio Carnival 2013.

The Carnival's blue ribbon event will be the Samba parade and the Samba competition, which will be fiercely fought between the two hundred Samba schools in the city of Rio. Held in the Sambadrome, they will be judged on their costumes, dances and floats.

The Carnival is thought to generate over £400m for the economy and will also be a test of the country's infrastructure and organisational skills. The South American giants are set to host the 2014 FIFA Football World Cup and the Summer Olympics 2016.

Click Start to see a slideshow of vibrant, colourful and stunning images from Rio Carnival 2013

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