During last summer's Olympic Games in Beijing, athletes and spectators watched to see how China would tackle environmental issues and make one of the world's most polluted cities safe for competition. A number of measures were introduced, resulting in the best air quality in a decade. Now that the games are over, will they constitute a legacy along with China's record gold medal haul? Sam Beattie reports from Beijing.
Before the Olympics, Beijing was notorious for its air pollution, with a sooty haze hanging over the city.
But as the games opened, tourists lined up to take pictures of the National Stadium and smiled under cloudless-blue skies.
To achieve the postcard feel, Olympic organizers shut down heavy industry and ordered about one third of the city's three million cars off the roads.
The United Nations Development Program says the Olympics helped bring change to the capital.
"Beijing municipality authorities have said very clearly that they see this as the beginning and not the end," UNDP Country Director said.
After the athletes left, Beijing authorities implemented a reduced car ban. It requires car owners to leave their automobiles at home one day each weekday during a six-month trial.
A fleet of public buses, fueled by natural gas, cruises the streets. Tickets are discounted by up to 60 percent to encourage use.
And four new subway lines have opened in the capital.
During the Games, Beijing residents enjoyed the cleanest air in a decade. They say they hope a green, clean city will be the legacy of the Olympics.
"During the Olympic Games it seemed like there were blue skies everyday, but now just a few months after the Games, this bad weather has come back," Anna Wang said. "I hope the government can do something to bring the good weather back."
China is becoming industrialized faster than most other nations and it is one of the world's biggest polluters. Green groups hope Beijing's environmentally friendly policies will be a model for the rest of the country.
Lo Sze Ping directs the China campaign of the environmental group Greenpeace.
"Greenpeace hopes these measures and technologies are not only limited to Beijing but will rather be proliferated promoted to other Chinese cities beyond 2008," Ping said.
That's a goal for health experts in China as well. According to the World Health Organization, more than 600,000 people die prematurely in China each year from air pollution alone.