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March 06, 2000 05:32pm
Brazil Carnival Fever Heats Up
Source: AP

(RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil) -- It's CARNIVAL in Brazil. Hundreds of thousands of revelers flooded streets in cities across the country Monday, the second day of Brazil's yearly pre-lenten celebration.

A highlight was Rio's parade, which continues non-stop until Tuesday morning. But that event wasn't without it notable sidelights.

TV actress Angela Bismarck covered herself in Brazil's national colors and nothing else, almost getting arrested for insulting the country's flag.

Police said they were preparing to arrest the nude actress as she danced atop a float, but held off when she donned clothing.

``It was an homage to Brazil and its flag, which are very special now that the country is commemorating 500 years of its discovery,'' she said. Speaking on television, she also said that she was ready to parade again ``more or less the same way''.

Many of Brazil's newspapers offered evidence of the offense, carrying photographs of Bismarck's demonstration.

Public nudity has become so accepted - some of Rio's biggest public beaches have begun to go topless - that even spectators at the carnival parades have begun to strip.

Nine topless models took over a booth at rio Sambodrome to cheer samba groups in the parade, while others wearing tiny bikinis danced on top of colorfully adorned samba schools cars.

The annual celebration is actually a hard fought competition where 14 of the best samba groups fight it out for the honor of being judged champion.

This year's carnival, which coincides with the 500th anniversary of Brazil's discovery by Portuguese navigator Pedro Alvares Cabral on April 22, 1500, has drawn an outpouring of national pride.

Some schools made the event the main feature of their allegoric cars, showing Indians in chains and others wearing native costumes.

Others depicted the saga of slaves from Africa, and some ridiculed military dictators who ruled the country between 1964 and 1985. The parades kicked off Sunday night and last through Tuesday morning.

According to most estimates, this year's Carnival is the party with most participants ever. Embratur, the country's tourism agency, estimated that revenue during the four-day holiday will represent up to $1.2 billion for the nation's coffers.

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