The Olympics, starting August 5, have been hit with a steep cut in the operating budget, which was drawn up before Brazil's slide into its worst recession since the 1930s. Penny pinching also extends to Rio's carnival, an annual contest between different samba schools which starts officially on Friday.

The Uniao da Ilha samba school, which has chosen an Olympics theme for its dancers and floats competing in the Sambadrome stadium, says things are far from the carnival's usual image of excess.

Sponsors have gone missing and the plunge in value of the national currency, the real, has made imported materials for the costumes -- 90 percent of which come from China -- wildly expensive.

The Uniao da Ilha's entry features dancers clad in ancient Greek-style costumes and 'tells the story of how Rio is preparing' for the Games, director Paulo Menezes said.

The Gods come down from Mount Olympus to see the city and then decide to stay, enchanted. But the administrative chief for the samba school, Marcio Andre Mehry de Souza, says the financial gods show no sign of blessing pre-Olympics Rio.

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