While Israel’s athletes lost out on Olympic medals in London, President Shimon Peres on Tuesday scored gold in the country where the Olympic Games began.

Evangelos Meimarakis, president of the Greek Parliament, presented Peres, who is on a state visit to Greece, with the Gold Medal of the Hellenic Parliament in recognition of his contribution to the global community.

In presenting the medal, Meimarakis said that it was a historic day for the parliament to have Peres in its midst – “a man who has contributed to peace in a region that has been sorely tried.”

Cooperation between Greece and Israel, he added, represented a strategic choice for such a peace.

The medal, the highest citation that Greece has to offer, is engraved with the image of Pericles, the great Athenian leader who rebuilt the city in the aftermath of the Persian wars.

In response, Peres said he was delighted to visit the Greek Parliament which, he noted, is the cradle of democracy.

Peres voiced his appreciation of the hospitality he has received in Greece, and said he felt completely at home.

In a quip about current weather conditions there, he said: “The warmth I have felt among the people I’ve met inside rivals the heat outside.”

Even state visits have their tourist aspects, and like almost every other visitor to Athens, Peres did not miss out on the Acropolis and the New Acropolis Museum. Unlike the average tourist, however, Culture Minister Konstantinos Arvanitopoulous and Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni accompanied him.

As far as the main purpose of his visit, Peres held discussions with Greek dignitaries on the upgrading of cooperation between the two countries in the spheres of politics, security, culture and economics.

Peres referred to Greece’s glorious past, and said he was certain that despite the present economic crisis, it was headed for a rich future providing it applied itself more to science and technology. He offered Israel’s full cooperation in every aspect of bilateral relations.

Arvanitopoulous and Kefalogianni called on Israeli tourists to help boost the Greek economy and to follow the president’s example by spending their vacations in Greece.

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