An important post-Olympics debate is taking place on China's Internet forums.
It has nothing to do with the record gold medal haul or the successful organization of the 2008 Games, but stems from the preparations taken to ensure the nation's capital would present its best face to the world.
Faced with one of the world's serious air pollution problems, the municipal government took half the city's cars off the roads with an alternating odd-even license plate system from July 20.
The smog was already a subject of intense international focus with some foreign athletes and delegations openly voicing concerns for their health.
When the Games opened on Aug. 8, a grey haze still hung over the city and Chinese officials and weather experts argued it was humidity or "fog" -- not smog -- despite claims to the contrary.
But in the following days it gradually cleared and Beijing meteorological chiefs boasted the best summer weather in 10 years.
Not that they needed the scientific data and statistics to prove it -- Beijing residents, long used to irritated throats and warnings to stay indoors on bad air days, quickly realized the improvement themselves.
Now the debate is spreading on-line: whether the motoring restrictions should be continued or not.
An online survey on portal site www.news.cn shows 56.62 percent of the over 10,000 interviewees support a permanent motoring restriction methods while 40.62 percent disagree.
Many people who had expressed annoyance over giving up their cars for blue skies are intensely scared of returning to days of choking smog and rush-hour congestion when the restrictions end after the Paralympics.
The Beijing traffic authorities have admitted receiving many submissions from car owners, saying they were comfortable with the odd-even number system and hoping it would last.
For long it was argued that economic development was essential to improving the lives of the Chinese people: why should they not have the cars and modern conveniences that are the trappings of the developed world?
But the debate over motoring restrictions could point the way to the lasting legacy of the Olympics: meaningful public discussion on what sort of development the Chinese want.
Zheng Yongnian, director of the East Asian Institute of the National University of Singapore, predicted that China would feel greater pressure after the Olympics as the people questioned whether the air quality and traffic will slide back to the pre-Olympic state.
"After the Olympics, more attention would be paid to changes in China...because China has become a power in the eyes of the West. They would monitor or supervise the development of this important country," said Zheng.
He suggested China treat them with a calm and confident heart, because criticism is beneficial to China and makes it do better.
While the Olympics infrastructure has pointed the way, the clean air has shown clear evidence of a better way forward and the need for public participation to achieve a better end result.
Alert to the drastic environmental price of its economic progress, China has found central policies of pursuing sustainable development obstructed by local governments, which still seek GDP growth at all costs.