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Brazil kicks off Carnival celebrations (PHOTOS)

Brazil kicked off Carnival celebrations, which will culminate on Fat Tuesday.

"I am giving over a city at the height of its rebirth," said Rio de Janeiro’s Mayor Eduardo Paes.

With the symbolic handing over of the city’s key to the Carnival king, celebrations – which will last for five days – kicked off in Rio de Janeiro and across Brazil today, according to the Associated Press.

The sequins and samba beats of Rio de Janeiro attract as many 250,000 foreigners and the celebrations in the northeastern city of Salvador attract twice that many, estimated Reuters.

The celebrations and flood of tourists pump over half a billion dollars into Rio and more than $300 million into Salvador, according to authorities.

There were security concerns earlier this year when the police strike in Salvador led to a crime spree in the city, with looting and vandalism and around 150 murders leading to visitors canceling their trips, said Reuters.

However, there were few signs of unrest as carnival kicked off, and officials in Rio said they were distributing 3 million free condoms, according to CNN.

Carnival will be a test drive of sorts for Rio, which is also preparing to host the final matches of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, reported the AP. Antonio Figueira de Mello, Rio’s tourism department president, said the city will be welcoming 3 million visitors this summer alone.

More on GlobalPost: Mardi Gras: 5 must try traditions

Here’s a look at final performances of samba schools from carnival in Rio de Janeiro last year, from the AP:

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/brazil/120217/brazil-kicks-carnival-celebrations