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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The World Cup of Moscow Balls




Among themselves, the members of the International Women's Club call their annual charities ball "Micheline's Ball." If hours spent in preparation are any measure and the final result is any judge, then Mme. Micheline Champenois, wife of the Belgian ambassador to Russia, rightly deserves the title.


Smack in the middle of a Moscow winter wonderland, Champenois had almost 400 people, mostly expatriates, to satisfy during this year's "Embassies of the World Dinner and Ball" festivities, held Friday night.


As chief organizer, Mme. Micheline pulled it off. In total, 17 embassies participated, hosting 17 different dinners followed by one grand cumulatory ball at the Greek Embassy complete with music, dancers, food and drink, and a few hundred clearly happy guests who had purchased $100 tickets to the event.


"They are the customers and you are just the worker," Champenois said of herself and fellow IWC members on the eve of the event.


After contacting each of the guests to assure them they had an embassy to dine in - and the right people to dine with - everything was finally in order and Champenois was catching her breath for the first time in a while. "I do enjoy doing it, but I must say [it] was a bit hard," she said.


The scheduling took some logistical flexibility. While some ticket holders made reservations for groups of 20 or 30, others came in pairs. Either way, seating arrangements were meant to allow guests to meet people from every niche of the expat community: diplomats, lawyers, social workers and bankers, all representing a hodgepodge of nations. The Icelandic Embassy, for example, alone played host to revelers from Malaysia, Holland, Germany, Russia, India and the United States.


The organizational legwork behind the wining and dining in each embassy - from Algeria to Peru - fell to the ambassadors and their wives, who together drew up menus based on their native cuisine and hired extra chefs and waiters.


"If you go to the Pakistani Embassy then you'll eat Pakistani food. We want people to have the feeling of going abroad to another country," Champeonis said beforehand.


"Somebody told me you must serve cheeses. So I have cheese," said Inga Lis Hauksdottir, the lively and gregarious wife of Icelandic Ambassador Jan Egill Hauksdottir, as the third course was laid before her guests. A delectable seafood salad and fillet of lamb were also on the menu.


Hauksdottir, who chairs the club's charities board, had her own hands full before the ball. The annual festivities benefit three local projects: medication for children with leukemia and hemophilia, educational assistance for Moscow orphans, and support for Russia's few foster families.


After a dessert of pears and ice cream in red wine and before the coffee and after-dinner drinks, including a minty, tingling Icelandic vodka, women and wives at the Icelandic Embassy received a proper toast for their work, which "too often goes unnoticed," said a man with a raised glass.


Perhaps the only unplanned moment of the entire evening was the transportation from each dinner to the Greek Embassy on Leontevsky Pereulok, a task accomplished by a show of hands from those who had cars and those who needed rides.


The ball went off without a hitch and was appropriately full of business-card swaps, tuxedos, gowns and even a few patriotic Scots in kilts and knee socks.


But while the crowd put its dancing shoes to rest and slept late the following morning, Champenois and her fellow IWC members still had one task left: sending thanks to the numerous sponsors and embassies for their donations to the event.


"I host a lunch next week to thank the ambassadors for hosting dinners," Champenois said Thursday. "Then we're done."