For nearly a decade, the Chinese Communist Party has made the Olympics the nation's first political priority, writes Jim Yardley in the New York Times. Hopes that the international spotlight would lead to democratization and human-rights reforms in China didn't materialize, as the triumph of the Games instead underscored the strength of the party. "They have earned a tremendous amount of face because of the Olympics," said one Beijing media exec. "They are going to ride on that for a while."
The overwhelmingly positive response to the $43 billion Games—and the haul of 51 gold medals—will play at home as a vindication for state control, Yardley writes. But one Chinese professor notes that the Olympics may raise public expectations; he predicts that Beijing residents, after enjoying a respite from air pollution during the Games, will demand clearer skies.