“I ALWAYS turn to the sports page first, which records people's accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man's failures.” The Olympic movement already has its own motto – Faster, Higher, Stronger – but it would do well to also keep in mind the above quote attributed to Earl Warren, the former US chief justice and erstwhile Governor of California.

Over the next three weeks as the XXXI Games unfold in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, an Olympic story that has been chronicled mainly on the front pages of newspapers over the past few months will look to make the transition to the back. Come the closing ceremony at the Maracana Stadium on August 21 the hope must be that the scale of the accomplishments have been so vast that they have dispatched all previous problems to the furthest corners of the mind.

For there is little doubt - with the opening ceremony just five days away - that this latest edition of elite sport’s quadrennial gathering could do with some positive PR. This is not the first time political controversies have threatened to overshadow the Olympics – the United States boycotted the 1980 Games in Moscow, the Soviets responded by not sending a team to Los Angeles in 1984 – but the muddled handling of the response to allegations of Russian state-sponsored doping programmes this time around has left many feeling disenchanted and weary.

The decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) last weekend not to issue a blanket ban to all Russian athletes – despite claims made in the McLaren Report that included Russian secret service agents tampering with urine samples – and instead leave it up to each individual sporting federation to take a stance on athlete eligibility was a demoralising blow to those hoping for a tougher response.

The ban on Russia’s track and field athletes, as implemented by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, will remain, while those Russians from other disciplines with a previous doping conviction will also not compete in Rio. On that front the Russians can rightly feel hard done to given the likes of American sprinter Justin Gatlin will be allowed to perform despite having served two separate bans for doping offences. It is still difficult to imagine, however, too sympathetic a welcome for those who travel to represent a nation that ought to be recoiling in shame and guilt, rather than bullishly still taking swipes at its detractors.

The only hope now is that these Games are as clean as can be realistically hoped for, and that more high-profile doping stories do not emerge to further taint the Olympics brand. Given the IOC are still reporting more positive cases from the last two summer Games in Beijing and London as a result of re-testing, that might be too much to wish for.

Then there is the Zika controversy. A mosquito-borne virus prevalent in large parts of the Americas that can cause brain damage in newborn babies as well as other physical defects, there were initial fears that the vast amount of both athletes and visitors travelling to Rio would be in danger of contracting the virus and then accelerating its dissemination around the globe upon their return home. Many athletes, including the top four male golfers in the world and two of this year’s Wimbledon semi-finalists, Milos Raonic and Tomas Berdych, have weighed up the risk and chosen not to travel, although Rory McIlory later admitted his decision was also partially influenced by his indifference to golf’s return to the Olympic programme after an 112-year wait.

The World Health Organisation, however, has moved to assure travellers heading to the Games that there is little chance of them contracting the virus, a message further underlined by the release this week of a study undertaken by Yale University that revealed that, out of a potential 500,000 visitors to Brazil, only a maximum of 37 would be expected to return home having contracted Zika.

“The possibility that travellers returning from the Olympics may spread Zika has become a polemic issue that has led to athletes dropping out of the event, and without evidence, undue stigmatisation of Brazil,” said Prof Albert Ko, chair of the department of epidemiology of microbial diseases at Yale. “This study provides data, which together with initial findings from Brazilian scientists, show that these concerns may be largely exaggerated.”

A greater concern may be Rio’s vulnerability to a terrorist attack, a not unrealistic worry given recent incidents around the world. Brazil’s justice minister, Alexandre Moraes, has conceded that such an attack was a “possibility not a probability”, with 85,000 military and police officials set to be deployed throughout the Games – double the number from London four years ago.

So far, so gloomy. It is to this backdrop, then, that the world’s leading athletes must try to regain the narrative. Leading the way for the final time on this stage will be Usain Bolt. The Jamaican remains one of the most recognised and marketable figures in sport, and has the performances to back it up. In Rio he will go for an unprecedented “triple triple” as he looks to collect gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at a third successive Olympics. His performances against Gatlin, in particular, will be among the highlights of the Games, a “good versus evil” duel for the very soul of the sport given the popularity of Bolt and Gatlin’s previous convictions for doping. The Jamaican was the victor when the pair clashed at the world championships last year in Beijing and the rematch ought to be fascinating, especially after Bolt confirmed this would be his last Olympics.

His compatriot also stands on the verge of history. No woman has won three successive Olympic gold medals at 100m but, after triumphing in Beijing and London, that is what Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce will attempt to do. If somehow lacking the profile of Bolt she does not stint in pedigree. Already she is the only woman to win the world title at her chosen distance three times, and the first to twice hold the Olympic and world titles at the same time.

The biggest story in swimming will be the return to action of Michael Phelps who retired after London as the most successful Olympian of all time with 22 medals, 18 of them gold. The American came out of retirement in 2014 and, now 31 and a new father, will try to add to his already staggering medal haul.

There will be substantial British and Scottish interest, too. Mo Farah, Greg Rutherford and Jessica Ennis will look to retain the Olympic track and field titles all won on Super Saturday in London four years ago, while Laura Muir, fresh from breaking the British record over 1500m, will hope to climb into medal contention, too, as will Eilidh Doyle in the 400m hurdles and the 4x400m relay.

Ross Murdoch will look to add an Olympic swimming medal to the Commonwealth gold won in Glasgow two years ago, Andy Murray will attempt to retain his tennis title from London, while in canoeing David Florence will look to add to his two previous silver medals. A raft of back page stories are out there just waiting to be written.