Rio de Janeiro's raucous Carnival begins

Rio de Janeiro's raucous Carnival begins

February 28th, 2014 by Associated Press in Local - Breaking News

A crowned and costumed Wilson Dias da Costa Neto, center, the 2014 King Momo or Carnival King, holds up the key of the city with Rio de Janeiro's Mayor Eduardo Paes at a ceremony marking the official start of Carnival, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Feb. 28, 2014.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

RIO DE JANEIRO - Rio de Janeiro's mayor has opened the seaside city's raucous Carnival, the self-billed biggest party on the planet and Brazil's last big bash before it hosts this year's World Cup football tournament.

Amid pounding drums and sequined-laden dancers, Mayor Eduardo Paes handed the keys to the city to King Momo, the mythical jester who reigns over the extravaganza.

Through Ash Wednesday, hundreds of thousands of merrymakers will take to Rio's streets in the nearly 500 open-air "bloco" parties. The most traditional of these bashes is expected to attract more than 1 million people to Rio's center area on Saturday.

Rio's tourism officials project that 918,000 tourists will descend on the city for Carnival. That's expected to inject more than $730 million into the local economy.