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.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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.