ECONOMY

Friction over 2004 security and budget

Government officials are hopeful that talks with the new consortiums bidding for security systems for the 2004 Athens Olympics will help create a new alliance that will be able to sign a contract within 20 days and undertake the project at reasonable cost. The former tender to build a security system was voided on Wednesday as both bids were considered unacceptably high. With the opposition branding, as usual, the procedure a «scandal» and the International Olympic Committee getting ever more impatient, the government has to tread carefully. The two rival consortiums, one led by US company SAIC and the other by US-French firm Thales Raytheon Systems, have still not abandoned their efforts to be awarded the project, marshaling all support they can muster – businessmen, politicians and diplomats. Government officials were claiming yesterday that the annulment was the only way, as the fierce competition had created a «climate of ill will» and any decision in favor of one or the other could trigger a prolonged challenge in the courts. Moreover, both bidders, who had initially budgeted their proposals at over twice the amount hoped for by the government (211 million euros) were too swift to offer discounts, making it, in the end, difficult to compare the two proposals. The fierce competition stemmed from the fact that whoever won the bidding would be in a good position to bid for similar systems in subsequent Olympiads as well as future tenders by the Greek State on systems for border protection. Both consortiums placed emphasis on the high-security wireless communications system that will be installed in Attica for the needs of the Olympics and which will be extended throughout Greece afterward. Friction over the 2004 Games is not confined to this tender. A day after senior officials leaked comments at a government meeting, purporting to express concern at the Athens 2004 budget, the government yesterday took pains to stress that its members had no problem with Athens 2004 Organizing Committee President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki. «Reports that there is friction between the prime minister and Mrs Angelopoulos are completely groundless,» government spokesman Christos Protopappas said. «Their cooperation is excellent.» Asked whether he thought Angelopoulos-Daskalaki was spending too much money, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos declared, «Woe to us if that is our approach.» Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou said cooperation with Angelopoulos-Daskalaki was «close.»