Rio’s stench is not rare – the Olympic call to ordure is a familiar ritual

Safety fears over water standards have figured prominently in the Games buildup, but they almost always do: effluence and affluence go hand in hand in modern Olympics

So climbing will be adopted by the Olympic family in 2020, after joining skateboarding, surfing, karate, men’s baseball and women’s softball on a list of new or returning disciplines officially sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee last week. In its pitch for acceptance the International Federation of Sport Climbing described it as “the only basic human movement not yet included in the Olympic Games”, a suggestion that sounds plausible enough – unless you read it on the toilet.

There is an argument that the one still-ignored basic human movement already has its place at the Olympics, albeit only unofficially. Over the past few weeks it has seemed that the focus of attention as the world’s press gathered in Rio was less on the sport than the sewage, a great deal of which is bobbing grimly around Guanabara Bay. “A giant pipe churns human waste into the marina,” reported USA Today on a visit to the sailing venue. “The stench makes uninitiated visitors feel like vomiting or fainting.” These days, Olympic glory can transform an athlete’s life, opening doors and boosting bank accounts. In Rio the sailors will have to cross streams of effluence to sustain their dreams of affluence.

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