China delivers an Olympics like no other
The Beijing Olympics was always going to be different from any other recent Olympics.
None of the usual questions that tend to surround an Olympics mattered here: money, organisation, level of government support and the public's enthusiasm - or indeed lack of it.
Instead, the question China faced was: should a regime like this have the honour of the biggest gathering of people in peaceful sporting competition without agreeing to change its authoritarian ways?
This issue was presented very clearly seven years ago when the International Olympic Committee voted for Beijing.
The leader of the rival Paris bid said China should get the Expo but not the Olympics. China's human rights record, he argued, ruled it out for the Olympics. Even though he himself was one of many businessmen who believed engagement with China was a good thing, giving it the Olympics was held up as an endorsement the country did not yet deserve.
In ignoring that advice, the IOC took the view that the Olympics simply had to come to the home of nearly a quarter of the world's population.
True, it nodded in the direction of human rights with its then director general Francois Carrard saying the IOC would monitor human rights in China.
But, as President Jacques Rogge put it to me, while China has had to open up as a result of hosting the Games, it was unrealistic to expect the Games to go where world leaders had failed.
It was always fanciful to expect that this 17-day festival of sport would completely change China, or that China would change a sporting system invented by a French count and now run by a Belgian count. Not in any fundamental ways at least.
Indeed, as Rogge also points out, the IOC came to China for its own reasons related to the Olympics.
Athens, having messed up its structure, was so behind schedule that there was real fear it might not be ready.
Turin, whose choice as the 2006 Winter Games was an unintended consequence of the Salt Lake City corruption scandal, did not have adequate facilities, needed more funding and was not certain the Italian government could or would help.
In contrast China simply told the IOC: "Give us the Games and we will do whatever you want."
And that is exactly what has happened.
China has given the IOC great venues - there can be nothing more iconic than the Bird's Nest, a true "object for the world" exactly as Ai Weiwei, its Chinese architect, intended.
The infrastructure development has been amazing, as anyone who has used Beijing's new airport will testify. The transport plan has also worked, making Beijing's previously impossible traffic more than manageable.
And the venues have provided some of the most memorable sports seen in many an Olympics.
Then Usain Bolt stole the show in the second week, making the 100 metres once again magical and worthy of a race to decide the fastest man on earth.
And alongside all this, Team GB has broken free from the rather depressing British history of failing to deliver by enjoying its best Games for a century. In doing so, athletes have created some truly great sporting moments, which have been surprising and stunning in equal measure.
Many other countries have also had Beijing highlights to treasure. India, the world's most underachieving sporting nation, won its first ever individual gold, as did Panama and Bahrain, while Mongolia, Afghanistan, Togo, all won their first medals.
But China will top the gold tally this time round. And that has prompted Americans to ask whether their athletes should get government funding - the US is the only nation that does not provide it.
Indeed, as China and Asia continue to grow as world economic powers, America's sway over Olympic finances may also come under pressure.
Many in the Olympic movement feel that if the 20th century was Europe and America's great century of sport, then the 21st century might belong to China and Asia.
While China's presentation at many of the sporting venues was a pale copy of what you might get in the NBA or at a baseball game, the Chinese have been determined throughout the last two weeks to show they can do sport like the West.
And there can be no doubt that the Beijing Olympics have done just that.