2004 security at risk

Ten months before the start of the Athens 2004 Games, the communications system that is to be the backbone of the 600-million-euro Olympic security effort is still up in the air. According to information obtained by Kathimerini, there are differences among the US-led consortium about replacing the provider of the Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA) wireless communications system; there are also differences between the consortium and the government over the latter’s demand for a hefty discount for the TETRA system. These delays, and the consequent effect they will have in training security personnel, are putting the most massive security operation in the history of the Olympics in jeopardy. After much haggling over the price, the government awarded the job of building security telecommunications and surveillance systems to a consortium led by the USA’s Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) on March 14. Even then, there were widespread rumors that Nokia, the consortium member that was supposed to supply the TETRA technology, would be replaced by OTE Telecom and Motorola, which were part of the losing consortium. SAIC officially made its intention known to dump Nokia for OTE and Motorola on August 21. However, no progress has been made since then. Sources told Kathimerini that «the government is wringing its hands» over the dispute. If this were not enough, on Thursday night a dispute erupted between the SAIC-led consortium and the government when the latter, represented by officials from the ministries of Defense and Public Order, demanded a 21-million-euro discount on the TETRA project. The demand led the consortium’s representatives to leave the meeting. Installation of the TETRA system is the most important item in the job the SAIC consortium will do, and which has been budgeted at 254.9 million euros. The government will spend at least 600 million euros on security. It appears that budget overruns in other areas of Olympics preparation have led the government to seek discounts wherever it can. Amidst those concerns, Greece has recently been criticized over its security preparations, notably in a lengthy Washington Post article on September 27. The government has dismissed these as the insinuations of people aiming at getting security related contracts.