Colourful displays as Rio's Carnival gets underway

Thousands of boisterous samba fans have come together to watch the first night of Rio's Carnival parades, and all eyes are on a seven-year-old girl who is the youngest drum corps queen in memory.

Julia Lira, her toothy grin and quick footsteps splashed across media worldwide, will be in the spotlight as her Viradouro samba group struts its stuff.

A judge ruled last week that the girl could take on the coveted Carnival role normally reserved for models and actresses.

Children's welfare groups have complained, but the overwhelming response in Brazil has been a shrug and acceptance.

The Uniao da Ilha samba group opened the night, introduced by a massive fireworks barrage and the first beats of a 500-strong drum line.

- AP

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