BEIJING, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- A summer day in the airless environment of Beijing's subway Line 1 is as humid as it has been during the past decade.
But commuters are cool on Line 5, commissioned before the Beijing Olympics in August last year. A further subway, Line 4, designed before the Games, is scheduled to open next month. For the first time a subway line in China's capital city will be operated by a joint venture, with a share holder from Hong Kong.
The former Olympic host city is now moving ahead under its own impetus.
A young couple, Liu Jun and Tang Xiaoyan, both primary school teachers from the southwestern city of Chongqing, put the National Stadium, nicknamed the Bird's Nest, on top of their travel schedule to Beijing, ahead of Tian'anmen Square and the Forbidden City.
"We came all the way to Beijing to see the Bird's Nest," said the wife Tang. "It looks more magnificent than on TV."
They are among 4.5 million visitors who have visited the Bird's Nest since it opened to the public in September 2008. The nearby Water Cube, the National Aquatics Center, has received 3.8 million people.
The two Olympic venues are undoubtedly new national landmarks, catching up with the iconic Tian'anmen Square, which is forever linked to the founding of the new China.
"In front of these venues, images of last year's Games started to come up again in my mind," Tang said. "The Olympics made me so proud of my country."
Zhou Zhou, a 27-year-old Beijinger, worked for the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) for more than a year.
"It was good to find that my own country was capable of handling such a big international event. All the compliments we earned led to confidence in being Chinese," he said.
Such confidence has been earned the hard way in a country that has been sidelined since the 19th century, said Song Yuehong, an expert on politics with the Institute of Contemporary Chinese Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
"For many years, the country and its people have tried their best to catch up with the outside world. They have learnt bloody lessons from the history of the past century. Once you lag behind, you are vulnerable," Song said.
"The most important Olympic legacy is the confidence Chinese gained. In addition, the Games allowed the world to see a prosperous, open and modernized China."
The country is absorbing the Olympic legacy in its own way, against expectations.
To improve air quality before the Olympics, Beijing worked hard. Some measures were understandable by the public. In 2008, the city of 3.7 million registered motor vehicles adopted regulations on vehicle exhaust emissions that were tougher than U.S. federal standards.
It imposed a ban on driving cars based on license plate numbers every second day. After the Games, the ban continued but was changed to one day off the road every five weekdays.
Beijing resident Liu Sisi has got used to it. "Although we gave up our right of driving daily, I believe it will help bring back the blue sky we lost," she said.
To be a friendly host, the country removed restrictions on foreign reporters during the Olympics as a special arrangement. Two months after the Games, the temporary arrangement became a standard practice.
In February this year, a new entry in government-issued press cards for domestic reporters required government bodies at all levels to facilitate the reporting of journalists.
At the debriefing of Beijing Olympics in last November, the International Olympic Committee said the Beijing Games brought changes to China in areas as diverse as press freedom, the environment and public health.
"In hosting the Olympics, China learned from the Olympic spirit and the world, but it is not possible to change its path of development just because of the event," Song said. "I think the country will stick to what fits its reality most."
Last August, the country opened its doors and interacted with the world to a degree never before witnessed.
"We respect and promote all concepts of freedom and human rights but our understanding of them is definitely different," Song said. (Yuan Fan and Ren Qinqin also contributed to the story.)
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