Updated: Friday, 21 February 2014 11:59 | By Agence France-Presse

Mariachi, topless Lebanese muse take to Olympic slalom

The sideshow at the Sochi Olympics involving footage of racy topless photos taken by a Mexican-born German prince of a Swiss-based Lebanese racer take centre stage in the upcoming slalom races.


Mariachi, topless Lebanese muse take to Olympic slalom

Mexico's flag bearer, alpine skier Hubertus Von Hohenlohe, leads his national delegation during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Games, at the Fisht Olympic Stadium, on February 7, 2014 - by Alberto Pizzoli

Both Hubertus von Hohenlohe, at 55 the oldest competitor at the Sochi Games, and Jackie Chamoun have made the tabloid headlines for non-sporting reasons over the last couple of weeks.

A series of risque photos Hubertus took of Chamoun in Lebanon's Faraya mountains for a calendar in 2011, along with a video of the photoshoot and stills from the film in which the 22-year-old is shown topless, have recently found their way on the Internet.

Although dating from three years ago, they caused an uproar in her culturally conservative homeland in some quarters, talk of a ministerial investigation tempered, however, by thousands who came out in support of her.

"The video and photos that you are now seeing are part of the making of the preparation. It wasn't supposed to go public," Chamoun said in an apology posted on Facebook.

"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.

"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."

Hubertus, who has designed a mariachi-styled racing catsuit for these Games, told AFP on Thursday that he had done nothing wrong and that he had talked to Chamoun, who was now feeling more at ease after the initial wave of criticism.

- 'I don't think the photos are offensive' -

"I don't think the photos are offensive. It's a shame because I believe we did nothing wrong," said Hubertus, a self-proclaimed "renaissance man" and celebrated photographer.

"Normally I do artistic photography and at times commercial, when people call me to do something.

"We'd already done this calendar of skiers other times, it sells very well and was the best-selling calendar of the year in the United States in 2012 and 2010.

"It's a good job, and a shame that they distracted everyone with the video that was taken, but I have nothing to hide."

Chamoun, Hubertus said, was a little calmer now, having also met up with the aristocratic photographer on Thursday.

"There was a positive reaction from many people towards her," said the Mexican, who spent his life growing up in the glitzy Spanish coastal resort of Marbella, Italy and Austria, honing for himself a multilingual peripatetic career that has included stints as a singer and television presenter as well as photographer.

"Another company has now called me to do the same with male ski racers. But I have not decided. We will see."

Hubertus was born in Mexico City in 1959 to a Volkswagen executive father, Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe, and Princess Ira of Fuerstenberg, but insisted Thursday he was focused on his slalom event, the final of the alpine skiing programme on Saturday, a day after the women.

- 'I am privileged, I have beautiful life' -

"The Vancouver Olympics were the last and these are the one-step-beyond Games!" he joked to AFP.

"It's all been very nice, much better than expected, because people spoke very badly (of Russia) and we were expecting something really different.

"The pistes are fantastic, tricky but good. There's been a great atmosphere and we've had a great time."

However, Hubertus, who finished 46th in the slalom and 78th in the giant slalom four years ago in Vancouver, has been battling a left foot injury sustained in competition in Serbia in December.

"I'm not firing at 100 percent, let's say 80 percent," he admitted. "Every day it's a little bit better.

"Luckily the race was near the end of the Olympics so I had more time to recover. I spent a lot of time with the physios of the German and Austrian teams."

Hubertus acknowledged the privilege he felt at competing at the Olympics, having made his debut at the 1994 Sarajevo Games.

"Sport is really something where you discover yourself, it makes you keep your feet on the ground, enjoy the good times and makes you suffer in the tough ones," he said. "I am very happy and I really feel privileged.

"This time I'm experiencing these Games with more awareness and knowing that not anybody can can compete in the Games. I am privileged. I have had a beautiful life."

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