By Diane Porter
There are already undeniable legacies of the 2008 Olympic Games: eight gold medals hanging around U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps’ neck, for instance, or the otherworldly sprint that helped Jamaican runner Usain Bolt break Michael Johnson’s record in the men’s 100 meter race. There are visual reminders, as well; the Olympic pavilions, Bird’s Nest and Water Cube will remain a part of central Beijing life for decades.
Perhaps the most crucial legacy, however, is yet to be played out. As hotels empty, athletes and television crews return to their home countries, and Beijing goes back to a life more sheltered from the world, the lingering question is this: Will the enormous and by most accounts successful efforts to reduce the city’s pollution during the Olympic games continue in some fashion, improving life for those who live there and reducing the city’s footprint on the global environment?
“Beijing will be built into a livable city,” said Du Shaozhong, deputy head of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau in a press conference the day before closing ceremonies.