Olympics: Lebanon skier's topless pictures spark flap

BEIRUT - A Lebanese skier competing at the Sochi Winter Olympics has sparked a flap back home, including a ministerial demand for an investigation, after risque photos of her taken for a calendar resurfaced online.

The photos of Jackie Chamoun taken for the calendar show her holding strategically-placed ski equipment to protect her modesty as she poses in Lebanon's Faraya mountains.

But a video of the photoshoot and stills from the film, which leave rather less to the imagination, emerged online this week, sparking criticism in some quarters after they were featured on Lebanese television.

Chamoun took to Facebook on Tuesday to publicly apologise for the video and stills, which she said showed the preparation for the photoshoot, rather than the final product.

"The video and photos that you are now seeing are part of the making of the preparation. It wasn't supposed to go public," she wrote.

"I want to apologise to all of you, I know that Lebanon is a conservative country and this is not the image that reflects our culture," she added.

"All I can ask to each of you who saw this is to stop spreading it, it will really help me focus on what is really important now: my training and race."

But the apology has not placated everyone, with Lebanon's Youth and Sports Minister Faisal Karami calling on Tuesday for an investigation into the photos to ensure "the protection of Lebanon's reputation."

The Lebanese Olympic Committee was meeting Tuesday afternoon to discuss the issue, and the head of Lebanon's Olympic delegation told AFP that Chamoun had been barred from speaking to the media.

Lebanon is considered among the most liberal countries in the Arab world, with women generally free to wear the skimpiest of attire, and alcohol widely available.

But the society remains culturally conservative, and Chamoun's photos touched off a small firestorm.

"Stop all your trash," Issam Merhi wrote on Chamoun's Facebook page, addressing her supporters. "What she has done is wrong, or else you would have all done it."

The 22-year-old Chamoun is competing in her second Winter Olympics representing Lebanon in alpine skiing. And despite the criticism levelled against her, plenty of fans offered their support online.

"Don't worry about nay sayers Jackie!" wrote Nicolas Rubeiz on her Facebook page. "Cherish your independence and keep making us proud. You are causing no shame whatsoever to Lebanon."

And others ridiculed the idea of a ministerial investigation to protect Lebanon's reputation at a time when the country is being rocked by a string of car bombings and other violence.

"Weekly car bombs, not a big deal. #JackieChamoun in a slightly revealing photoshoot: scandal. #LebaneseProblem," wrote Twitter user KareemVots.