Prepping for Rio's festival of hedonism

A huge fire in February at Rio's Samba City complex destroyed thousands of floats and costumes but not the spirit of those hosting the annual 'Carnaval.'

Despite a fiery setback last month, the annual carnival moves on

Fire and passion

As spectacles go, Rio de Janeiro's annual Carnaval is the Super Bowl of parades, a grand festival of dancers, extravagant floats and costumes all over the city that draws millions of onlookers from across South America and around the world.

The biggest parade, involving the city's 12 elite samba schools, takes place this weekend, March 6 and 7, when immense prestige and big cash prizes for the competitors are on the line.

But this year's effort will have an extra layer of commitment: On Feb. 7, fire ripped through the huge Samba City complex of workshops and warehouses, in the process wiping out months of preparations worth millions of dollars.

Among the hardest hit were three of the elite samba organizations, Portela, Grande Rio and Uniao da Ilha, whose workers have been toiling almost around the clock to get back on track.

Jonathan Rothman has been in Rio for the CBC and sends this behind-the-scenes look at the last-minute prepping for the big show. His radio documentary on the fire and passion that is the Rio carnival will be heard Saturday and Sunday on The World This Weekend.