Lebanese rally behind Olympic skier who posed nude

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 14, 2014 at 2:31 pm •  Published: February 14, 2014

BEIRUT (AP) — The video of Jacky Chamoun that surfaced on the Internet as she prepared for the Sochi Olympics caused quite a stir in Lebanon, and exposed some deeper issues.

It sparked a government investigation, which in turn triggered a deluge of criticism in the main stream and social media against the political leadership over its priorities.

Gabriel Chamoun said he was encouraged by the backing his Alpine skier daughter has received from people across Lebanon's diverse sectarian and religious spectrum in the last week.

"As a father, when I saw the video, I was very upset," he told The Associated Press on Friday. But, "The reaction of people was phenomenal. It's the first time I see Lebanese people so united."

He said the political fuss over the footage was symbolic "of everything that is going wrong in this country."

The old footage of Chamoun posing topless in the snow for a photographer prompted a Lebanese government official to order an investigation. The inference was that Chamoun had somehow harmed the country's reputation.

It was only after that decree that many people in Lebanon realized they had athletes competing at the Winter Games.

Supporters took to social media immediately to criticize politicians for targeting the young athlete while seemingly ignoring corruption, nepotism, bombings and a litany of other problems.

Within an hour, Chamoun's Facebook page had 12,000 fans. Lebanese people from as far away as Los Angeles and Sao Paolo posted semi-naked pictures of themselves, covered strategically with signs featuring messages like "Stripping For Jackie" and "I am not naked," on Twitter.

Chamoun's mother, Denise Chehab, said whatever the motives were for the people who published the video, the fallout had only galvanized support behind her daughter.

"Some people wanted to hurt us, but they ended up only harming themselves," Chehab told The AP. "Just a few days ago, nobody cared what my daughter is doing for her country at the Olympics. Now she is famous."

In the Arab world, Lebanon is a relatively liberal country with sprawling beaches and mountain resorts. The capital is renowned for its bars, restaurants and night life.

But under the surface, most people, Christians and Muslims, tend to be deeply conservative.

Chamoun acknowledged on her Facebook page that she posed for an Austrian ski calendar, and never imagined that behind-the-scenes footage would ever be published.

"I know that Lebanon is a conservative country and this is not the image that reflects our culture," Chamoun wrote. "I fully understand if you want to criticize this."

Sports minister Faisal Karameh ordered an investigation a day after the video appeared on the Internet saying that "all measures should be taken in which Lebanon's reputation and its international standing are not harmed."

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