‘Sexist’ remarks land Italian swim commentators in hot water

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“Dutch divers are big,” said one commentator about a female contestant, while another compared her to an Italian diver. “Whatever, they’re all equally tall in bed,” he added.

Two Italian television presenters have sparked controversy over their “sexist” and “racist” comments about female contestants, during a live broadcast. 

The men, discussing the Aquatic World Championships for Italy’s RAI channel, received a flurry of complaints from viewers over their slurs and jokes, widely considered offensive.

During the final of the synchronised female diving, sports journalist Lorenzo Leonarduzzi and technical assistant Massimiliano Mazzucchi said: “This diver here, her name is Harper. She’s a harp player. How do you play the harp? You got to touch it? You pinch it”

One then said “si-la-do”, referring to musical notes, but also slang used for a woman who wants to have sex.

“That’s the advantage women have over men. Women only have to know three notes,” said the other.

Leonarduzzi has tried to distance himself from the remarks, telling the Italian outlet Corriere della Sera “these are words that do not belong to me”. 

He referred to himself as “already a victim of a regrettable accident” a couple of years ago, in reference to another joke that was seen as sexist.

The commentators were also criticised for body shaming and racism, saying “smoke healthy, smoke Pakistani” in reference to a contestant from Pakistan. 

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When a diver from the Netherlands took to the stage, their conversation turned to her appearance. 

“Dutch divers are BIG,” said one. “Like ours, Vittorioso (referring to Italian diver Giulia Vittorioso). She’s big uh,” replied the other. 

“Whatever, they’re all equally tall in bed”.

Viewers took to social media to criticise the commentators, calling their remarks “disgusting”, while some others doubted any serious disciplinary action would be taken against the pair. 

Sexism and gender-based discrimination are stubborn issues in Italy. Almost half of the country’s adult women have experienced sexual harassment, according to the Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT). 

An estimated 1.4 million women, or just under 9%, reported experiencing physical harassment or sexual blackmail at work. 

RAI announced it has launched disciplinary proceedings.

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