The Unidos da Tijuca samba school was Wednesday declared the winner of the 2012 Rio Carnival, with its tribute to the late singer and composer Louis Gonzaga, the "king of Baiao", a popular music style from Brazil's northeast.
In an eagerly awaited verdict, Carnival judges gave the title to Unidos da Tijuca, sporting blue and yellow colors and renowned for its creative and innovative artistic work, for the third time in its 81-year history.
The Salgueiro school, in red and white colors, finished second, with a parade paying homage to Cord literature, a popular genre in the northeast.
The genre refers to printed booklets containing folk novels, poems and songs which were traditionally sold by artists who displayed them hanging from cords.
As soon as the result became known, 10,000 elated Unidos da Tijuca fans kicked off wild celebrations at their headquarters.
The 13 elite Rio samba schools in contention for the title staged sumptuous night parades of floats and hundreds of exquisitely costumed performers at the renovated Sambodrome, the "temple of Samba", early this week.
The parades marked the high point of the pre-Lent bacchanalian Carnival festival, a national holiday celebrated with gusto throughout this huge and racially diverse country of 191 million people.
Unidos da Tijuca paraded some 4,000 dancers and several elaborately designed floats before a capacity crowd of 72,000 at the Sambadrome early Tuesday.
It highlighted the rich rural culture of the arid northeast, with a theme mixing traditional samba with the rythms of forro, a typical northeastern musical genre and dance.
The 40 judges gave their verdict based on choreography, music, dancing and creativity.
Some five million people, including 850,000 tourists, are believed to have attended the five-day Rio extravaganza, which ends Wednesday.
Billed as "the greatest show on Earth", the Rio Carnival also features hundreds of street bashes marked wild samba dancing and heavy beer consumption.