The former Soviet republic of Georgia tries to maintain the image of one of its main products – Georgian wine – the imports of which to Russia have been recently banned. The little state in the Caucasus decided to stake everything on it and ask one of the biggest Hollywood stars for help.
The government of Georgia offered American dancer, singer, actress and fashion designer Jennifer Lopez (see pictures here) $500,000 to go to Georgia to celebrate Independence Day in the capital, Tbilisi, on May 26. J Lo was also asked to help promote one of Georgia's most economically important products, wine, which was badly affected by what Tbilisi claims was a politically charged import ban imposed by the drink's biggest consumer, Russia.
The star, however, rejected the offer. Lopez set forth too many conditions for her arrival to the country and asked for a much larger fee.
Yesterday a government official admitted to the Interfax news agency that an offer had been made, and that Lopez had turned it down. The singer had also asked for overly expensive stage equipment, he said, adding that the money would have been raised through sponsors, not from the state budget.
A spokesman for Lopez could not be reached for comment.
Georgia's wine industry has been in crisis since Russian health officials imposed the ban, later extended to Georgian spirits, because of what it claims were unacceptable levels of pesticides found in bottles exported to Russia.
Georgia has described the ban as a political campaign that aimed at damaging its economy.
Alcohol is Georgia's second biggest export and about 70% of its wines are sold to Russia. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, who has described Georgia as the "motherland of wine", has visited China and Turkey to find new wine markets. He also hopes to introduce it to the United States.