China got precisely what if wanted out of the Beijing Olympics, said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial. It paid more than $41 billion, and reaped a mountain of gold medals, along with international approval despite its human rights abuses. “Yet what planners in Beijing miscalculated is that no matter how well you teach performers to smile, the strain behind the lips is still detectable.”

After China’s “super-coordinated” extravaganza, said Anne Applebaum in The Washington Post, the 2012 Games should be delightfully messy. Londoners will grouse about the traffic, politicians will carp about money, the notoriously “snarky” British press will call the ceremonies “tasteless”—but protesters won’t be intimidated, and everyone will have “a lot more fun.”

Don’t diminish China’s achievement, said Ren Ke, Zhang Chongfang, and Li Huizi on the Web site of Xinhua, the Chinese news agency. The “spectacular” Beijing Olympics “aroused enthusiasm” for the Games in the developing world, and demonstrated to other nations how hosting the Olympics can vault a nation onto the international stage and accelerate its development.

“China's flawless handling of the Olympics was a gold-medal dazzler,” said the San Francisco Chronicle in an editorial. But the Games would have done more for China if it had used the occasion to leave its past “for a new future where human liberty matches economic freedom.” Instead it resorted to the same old repression, which makes it “hard to find hope in the Olympic experience.”

For China, maybe, said The Washington Times in an editorial, but the American basketball team showed that the Games still have the power to inspire. The Redeem Team reclaimed the gold, and Kobe Bryant served as an example for everyone by talking of “his pride in wearing the Team USA uniform.” That’s the true spirit of the Games, and as long as it survives, we can all be redeemed.