WHEN THE PARTY IS OVER

It’s 4 a.m. on a Tuesday morning in Rio de Janeiro. At this time of the year bright lights shine only at the the Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí.

Exhausted from the heat and a half-mile walk in heavy costumes, samba school participants disappear in the darkness as they cross the imaginary finish line at the end of the Sambadrome.

“Por 5 reais!” (“For 5 reals!” in Portuguese) Two little girls show their trophies for sale-two beautiful hats off somebody’s Carnival costumes. What a bargain, considering the true price of each piece! Could be great as a souvenir from Brazil and a memory of the Carnival! Or one of a kind hat to wear back home at Halloween!

Thousands of Carnival costumes get thrown away as soon as the parade for the school is over. And with them, numerous hours of designing, selecting the materials and manufacturing elaborate ensembles go into the trash.

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The two girls are not the only ones who dig through the piles of dumped Carnival costumes outside the Sambadrome. Locals and tourists explore the heaps of colorful outfits adorned with expensive feathers and ribbons. Only an hour ago those outfits scored points for the school.

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To be a part of the parade, to help the school score points and bring it to the victory is desirable for many. Some are even ready to pay US $400-700 per outfit and have a spot in the “wing”, a block of the school procession dressed in similar costumes. No dancing skills required. Just lots of energy in order to be able to walk in a 20-pound plus outfit in the middle of the night. Or, worse, in the early hours, somewhere at 4 or 5 a.m., if the school is one of the last to parade.

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Spectators see the 1.5-hour procession of bright colors where muses energize the crowd with their suggestive sparkly outfits, professional samba dancers wow the public with their skills, baianas whirl in big and heavy skirts, drummers pound the rhythm in unison, elaborate floats move by and thousands of people dressed in theme costumes walk by and greet the audience. Each school is a happy and cheerful crowd that is having the time of their lives and is trying to shake up the viewers.

By the end of a 1.5-hour procession energy levels must be depleted to the point when the costumes feel heavier than they were at the start, the lights over the Sambadrome look almost too bright and the same song played over and over again starts to irritate.

Then they reach the end of the Sambadrome, and the show is over.

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The big open space outside that was filled with crowds before the beginning of Carnival turns into a graveyard of costumes with narrow paths meandering through the glittery mountains. The new wave of dumped costumes arrives so fast, that the garbage truck chokes in the attempt to swallow more than it can. And soon there will be another wave of glitter, feathers, ruffles and ribbons, followed by a new one. Until the show is over for good.

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A recent big event that ended with big words and even bigger commitments, Rio +20, comes to mind after seeing the “behind-the-scenes” of the Carnival.

Just last year 180 countries got together for a conference on sustainable development. Rio hosted the event.

Upon seeing tons and tons of trash dumped after the Carnival, it is hard to believe that the conference on “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (definition by the Brundtland Commission, an organization created by the request of United Nations), really took place in Rio.

The Rio +20 Conference in 2012, Soccer World Cup in 2014, Olympic Games in 2016, Carnival every year.

Rio, Rio, Rio, the marvelous city.

Committed to the grand scale events and a grand scale of work. The whole world granted Rio its trust.

Can Rio live up to its commitments?

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