Racy photos tend to cause a scandal, but Lebanon may be taking it a little too far. The country's Sports and Youth Minister ordered an investigation into topless photos that surfaced of Jacky Chamoun, a Lebanese skiier at the Sochi Winter Olympics. Facing controversy after old photos and video from a ski-themed calendar shoot reappeared online, Chamoun publicly apologized on her Facebook page Tuesday saying, "I know that Lebanon is a conservative country and this is not the image that reflects our culture."
While many say Lebanon is one of the more liberal countries in the Middle East, the area is still conservative by Western standards. Lebanon's National News Agency first reported minister Faisal Karami's order to look into the images to ensure "the protection of Lebanon's reputation." There are probably larger issues to deal with — sectarian violence and deadly car bombings, anyone?
Responding to the backlash, Chamoun explains she took the photos for an Austrian ski calendar three years ago, alongside other professional athletes. The annual feature showcases images taken by six-time Mexican Olympic skier Prince Hubertus von Hohenlohe to promote winter sports tourism in different areas. (Perhaps something similar to Russia's attempt to campaign for their Olympic team using lingerie shots.)
In the pictures, Chamoun is seen holding strategically-placed skis while posing in Lebanon's Faraya mountains. She says the video, which gives a behind-the-scenes look at the photo shoot, wasn't supposed to be made public.
I fully understand if you want to criticize this. Now that I’m at the Olympic Games, these photos that I never saw before are being shared. It is sad. All I can ask to each of you who saw this, is to stop spreading it, it will really help me focusing on what is really important now: my trainings and race.
In an earlier interview with NBC, Chamoun says she didn't regret the experience at all and deemed it "positive." However, she hinted at the conservative views and repercussions she and others could have faced at the shoot.
"If we were somewhere else in Lebanon, in a public place, maybe they would have shooted us," she says. "But we were on the slope in Faraya and it is an open space. The people who go there are people from Beirut who are open-minded, more international in their thinking."
Fans took to Chamoun's Facebook page to show support, with comments such as "You are a beautiful image of Lebanon" and "You represent the majority of the Lebanese people."
Image: Getty Images