Lebanese rally behind Olympic skier after racy photos surface

Lebanese rally behind Olympic skier after racy photos surface

Lebanese fans rallied behind Olympic skier Jacky Chamoun this week when she found herself amid an international investigation after topless photos surfaced online.

Three years ago, Chamoun, who is competing in Sochi, posed for an annual skiers calendar organized by Mexican Olympic skier, Hubertus von Hohenlohe. Although Chamoun is not seen topless in the actual calendar spread, behind-the-scenes footage leaked last week, showing Chamoun topless while getting into position for various shots.

[Photos: See more images of Jackie Chamoun]

The photos and video footage were never supposed to surface, Hohenlohe confirmed. Chamoun said whoever uploaded the images online was “someone who wanted to ... hurt me or the federation or the Olympic committee. We don’t know. We cannot know the exact reason. It wasn’t supposed to happen, but it happened.”

Still, in response to the scandal, Lebanon’s sports minister Faisal Karami requested the Olympic committee conduct an investigation of the skier after the images surfaced. Karami said he worried the footage would harm the conservative country's image, saying, “All measures should be taken in which Lebanon's reputation and its international standing are not harmed."

Photographer Hohenlohe couldn't believe the upset over the unpublished photos, telling Reuters that they are, in fact, “very elegant and serene.”

“I don’t believe it,” Hohenlohe wrote in an email to NBC. “It seems like we are in the ’50s or even the ’40s. I am proud of the pics and don’t think there is really anything bad.”

“He’s a really good friend. It’s not his fault,” Chamoun told AP of Hohenlohe.

[Video: Hit the beach at the Winter Olympics]

People were outraged by Karami's investigation request, with many criticizing the Lebanese government of having crooked priorities.

“Some women are beaten or killed, others are raped, and the media shifts their attention to a confident, talented, beautiful woman who represents her country at the Olympic games,” said protester Cynthia-Maria Aramouni, who created the campaign "I'm Not Naked" in support of Chamoun. Aramouni was referring to Lebanese schoolteacher Manal al-Assi, who was reportedly beaten to death by her husband last week.

Supporters of Chamoun posed topless and posted on the "I'm Not Naked" page, using the hashtag #StripForJackie. In a little more than 24 hours, the page garnered nearly 12,000 likes. The same hashtag was used as a protest on Twitter.

"The point isn't to be topless," Leticia Haddad, a Lebanese University student, told CNN. "It isn't to show skin or anything else. It's more to spread the word that it's OK to be ourselves. It's OK to show a bit of skin. It's OK. It doesn't affect our morals."

Chamoun’s father, Gabriel Chamoun, told The Associated Press Friday that when he first heard about the video, he was “very upset," but “the reaction of people was phenomenal. It's the first time I see Lebanese people so united.''

And Chamoun’s mother, Denise Chahab, told the AP: "Some people wanted to hurt us, but they ended up only harming themselves. Just a few days ago, nobody cared what my daughter is doing for her country at the Olympics. Now she is famous."

Soon after the social media outrage sparked, sports minister Karami announced the Lebanese government would in fact abandon the investigation on Chamoun. "The Lebanese Olympic Committee held a meeting and concluded that this will not affect Lebanon's participation in Sochi, and that the matter according to the International Olympic Committee, is a matter of personal freedoms,” he told CNN.

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