ECONOMY

Security battle nears end

It is only a matter of days before the winning bidder for the security systems for the 2004 Olympic Games is to be announced. This has been a diplomatic and legal thriller without precedent, with even some of those involved getting US Vice President Dick Cheney to exert pressure on the Greek government. It is, of course, certain that other European leaders have also come out in support of companies from their own countries. The committee at the Defense Ministry in charge of the issue has been holding endless meetings to discuss the objections lodged by the various bidders, counter-offers and even threats. The SAIC-led consortium and the French-American TRS, which heads the other group, have both sought to depose members from the committee on the grounds that they support the opposing bid. Two members representing the Public Order Ministry were replaced on December 20, sparking a reaction from TRS. It called on Spyros Trailos, secretary-general at the Defense Ministry, to replace another committee member, claiming that the person had also been a member of the committee which drafted the technical specifications. The battle over the security systems for the 2004 Olympic Games, with an estimated budget of 210 million euros, has intensified in the last weeks after both groups submitted financial offers. SAIC offered 279 million euros, while TRS’s bid came to 403 million euros. On December 27, TRS submitted a new bid equivalent to SAIC’s offer. This move disturbed SAIC, which sent a letter to Trailos saying TRS’s offer, made after December 24, should be ignored. Until last Friday, it was not known if the ministry had accepted TRS’s lower bid of 268.7 million euros. Last Thursday night, the rumor was that the counter-offer had not been accepted but that could not be confirmed. Sources said a five-member team of politicians and executives from Athens 2004 has asked for the minutes of that day. Many of those involved have said the winning bidder will be chosen on political grounds, despite all the talk about technical specifications. The critical issue is who will make the final decision, the defense minister or the prime minister. Companies in both consortia claim the project will be lossmaking and that they are counting on the post-Olympic Games period when security systems will be installed throughout Greece. Simitis appears to have asked that the contest be completed within the next 15 days, as the time scale for finalizing the project is tight. The final decision is due to be made possibly this week.