Jerome Valcke expressed satisfaction with progress on the Beira Rio stadium on his visit to Porto Alegre (Getty)

(WFI) Striking teachers and Black Bloc anarchists were last night involved in violent clashes with police in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

Reports from Brazil said the protests over pay began peacefully, with thousands marching through the cities. But the demonstrations descended into violence when darkness fell. Firebombs were thrown and riot police reacted by firing tear gas in a bid to quell the protests.

Following the rioting before and during the Confederations Cup in the summer, the latest protests will alarm FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, who is in Brazil this week conducting host city inspections in Porto Alegre and Cuiaba.

Sao Paulo is slated to stage the World Cup opener on June 12, with Rio staging the final a month later.

Valcke is likely to discuss Brazil’s security operations for the World Cup with the organising committee. An LOC board meeting takes place on Thursday.

FIFA Keeps Pressure on Brazil

With the Dec. 31 deadline for completion of the remaining six World Cup venues looming, Valcke on Monday said his almost monthly visits to Brazil were aimed at maintaining “pressure” on Brazil to deliver projects on time.

Six of the 12 competition venues were used for the Confederations Cup. Sao Paulo’s 65,000-seater Itaquerao Stadium is among the facilities yet to be finished.

But Valcke had some encouraging words for organisers during his visit to the southern city of Porto Alegre on Monday.

“There’s been a big change since we were here last time. There are no worries or doubts at all about the Beira-Rio being ready in time,” Valcke was quoted by AFP as saying at a press conference.

Beira Rio will stage five matches at the World Cup.

However, Valcke is keenly aware that the run-in to the competition will not be a smooth one. Concerns over workers’ conditions last week halted construction in the southern city of Curitiba and triggered fresh concerns.

“This period cannot be used to rest but to finalise all the missing details to guarantee the event is a success,” Valcke said.

Valcke

is in the central western city of Cuiaba today. As usual on his host city tours, he is accompanied by sports minister Aldo Rebelo and LOC board members Ronaldo and Bebeto.

Authorities Storm Rio Favelas

More than 1,000 military police officers stormed 12 different Rio de Janeiro slums as part of a crackdown on drug gangs ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.

Authorities are attempting to wrest control from the criminals overseeing the neighbourhoods. The raid was met with no resistance from locals. Reports said a cache of guns and drugs was seized and nearly 200 people arrested in the Sunday raid.

Complexo do Lins is the 35th favela in Rio targeted under the pacification programme launched in 2008, a year after Brazil secured World Cup hosting rights. Another five slums are targeted ahead of the World Cup. The Maré complex near the international airport is said to be next in line to be occupied.

Ticket Applications

FIFA has received more than 4.5 million applications for World Cup tickets. The first phase of ticket sales ends on Thursday.

FIFA will hold a lottery to distribute the tickets where the demand exceeds supply of tickets for certain matches.

In total, FIFA is making 3.3 million tickets available for the 64-match tournament.

World Cup Draw Procedure

FIFA clarified the procedure for the Dec. 6 World Cup draw at its ExCo meeting on Friday.

The seeded teams (Pot 1) will include Brazil and the seven top-ranked teams. FIFA said the remaining pots will be based on geographic and sports criteria.

The latest official world rankings to be released on Oct. 17 will be used as opposed to the November ranking as the latter would give the teams involved in the upcoming play-off games an unfair advantage.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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