Life After the Beijing Olympics

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BEIJING, China - The Beijing Olympics are the most-watched event in television history.

More than 200 million viewers across the U.S. tuned to NBC to watch at least some of the Games.

It helps that NBC broadcast more than 3,600 hours and that China pulled out all stops to make these the most extravagant games ever.

Many Chinese say that hosting the Olympics is a dream that's been a thousand years in the making.

Where Does China Go from Here?

For the past seven years China has invested well over $40 billion, sparing no expense to dazzle the world.

Massive crowds flooded into the venues, as fans cheered on their favorite teams. And with no major breaks in security, most consider it to be a smashing success.

Beijing resident Wang Dong said, "I think the Games are very successful. It's an honor for China to host the Olympics and our dreams have come true."

Beijing is still basking in its Olympic glow right now, with China winning more gold medals than ever. But now that the games are over, the big question is whether this momentum will continue.

Judith Shapiro, author of Mao's War Against Nature, says some changes Beijing has made to get ready for the games, might not be sustainable.

"You can't ban cars from the road, so that's not gonna continue. But the efforts to get people more aware of the dangers of smoking, that's gonna be a long-term public health issue," Shapiro said.

Some say that major changes might be necessary for the greater good of the country.

"If we want to improve our environment, some sacrifices will have to be made," said one Beijing resident. "Workers might have to be laid off, but I still think serious measures must take place."

Improved Global Relations

The Olympics haven't just increased national pride; They've also improved China's relationship with other countries.

"At the beginning, it seemed that many countries were going to boycott the Games, but it seems very successful now," a Beijing said.

"I think that all the world leaders coming for the Opening Ceremonies and the Closing Ceremonies, I think that helps build goodwill and trust," said one American who has resided in Beijing for 14 years.

While international tensions have taken a backseat to the Olympic extravaganza, they're not going to disappear after the Games.

Maintaining and even surpassing the development of the past seven years remains a daunting task. But as the Olympics come to a close, most don't see it as the end of the games. Instead, they say it's the beginning of new China.

A Chinese tourist said, "For about two centuries China was shut out from the rest of the world, and the Olympics is just a window to introduce China to the rest of the world. China can face the world with a new look.

*Original broadcast August 25, 2008.

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