The Beijing Olympics could be remembered as another “Sputnik moment,” said Jamie Metzl in The Miami Herald. Back in 1957, the Soviet Union’s “foray into outer space” forced America to “get its act together” and regain its footing. If we’re lucky, China’s triumphant coming out party will do something similar, inspiring the U.S. to face up to the challenges of a post-American world with rising new powers to contend with.

If anything, the Olympics revealed “cracks” in China’s façade, said The Christian Science Monitor in an editorial. China piled up the gold medals, but the Communist Party showed its “true colors,” with the roughing up of journalists who approached political dissidents, and the arrests of two elderly women protesting their eviction from their homes. The Games were a success, but China’s coming-out party didn’t earn it the international respect it sought.

There's no question that the good and the bad have both been on display, said USA Today in an editorial. But the Games have been perceived around the world as a “metaphor for China’s rapid rise.” And China’s “unabashed” showing of its “darker side” put the U.S. on notice that steering the new brand of “authoritarian capitalism” toward democracy won’t be an easy task.

China’s leaders are feeling pretty good about themselves, said Victor Matheson in The Boston Globe, but that will change when it comes time to pay the bill. At a cost of $40 billion, "the Beijing Olympics represent the most expensive coming-out party in history.” The “feel-good effect” sweeping China will disappear as people find out that hosting the Olympics rarely pays off with the long-term economic and diplomatic benefits everyone expects.