ECONOMY

2004 security bidders told to do it together

Facing intense pressure from diplomatic and other quarters, the government is trying to bring both bidders for the 2004 Athens Olympics security systems to the table to accept to split the project among themselves. Representatives of the two bidding consortiums, one led by US firm Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) and the other by US-French group Thales Raytheon Systems (RTS), were summoned yesterday to the Ministry of Defense and told to cooperate. According to sources, the SAIC consortium, which has consistently provided the lower bid, refused to do so and left the meeting. The same ministry sources said that SAIC submitted a letter a few hours later explaining in detail why it cannot cooperate with TRS, including system incompatibility and lack of time. The proposal for the two consortiums to cooperate, which has the approval of Prime Minister Costas Simitis, came after two months of intensive negotiations and backstage pressure, which is said to have involved at some point US Vice President Dick Cheney pitching in in favor of one consortium. The government is aware of issues such as incompatibility. What it is doing now is try to convince the consortium leaders to retain at least the best-connected firms and ditch the others in order to create a unified working group. Pressure piled up not only from foreign, but also from domestic firms who are part of one of the two consortiums, firms such as telecommunications equipment maker Intracom and IT firms Altec and Info-Quest, which see the tender as a prime chance to reap profits. Greece is spending upward of $650 million in what promises to be the most security-obsessed Olympics to date and the security systems installed will form the backbone of Greece’s civil defense capabilities for decades to come. The government also wants to persuade the combined consortium to spend no more than 280 million euros on the project. SAIC’s initial bid was for 279 million euros, while TRS’s initial proposal would cost 403 million euros. In his three-day visit to Greece ending yesterday, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge discussed the issue with Simitis. Olympic officials are concerned about the system being up and running on time. They noted that, at this juncture, 19 months before the Olympics, Sydney had already completed their system. Of course, that was before the added requirements brought on by the post-September 11 atmosphere.