Here's the reality:
The Olympic flame is out, the smog is back, and traffic again clogs the roads.
Welcome to what commentators are calling China's "post-Olympic era," in which euphoria over the Beijing Games is slowly giving way to economic worries, new safety crises and a future both brimming with confidence and tinged with uncertainty.
So far, it's off to a rocky start.
China received widespread praise for organizing the games, which formally ended Wednesday with the Paralympics' closing ceremony.
Even before then, however, reality reasserted itself with the collapse earlier this month at an illegal mine waste dump that killed at least 259 people and forced the resignation of a provincial governor. Since then, a product safety scandal has roiled the nation, with contaminated milk powder causing the death of three infants and sickening more than 6,200 others.
Both crises point to underlying systemic weaknesses that the Olympics did little to eliminate, despite a massive effort to clean up Beijing's polluted air, boost security and ensure smooth logistics. China's mines remain the world's deadliest and creaky infrastructure a constant threat, while an overhaul of the product safety system has proved only partially effective.
A further post-Olympics worry is the state of the weakening economy, raising the prospect of unemployment and higher inflation in what remains a poor nation. Chinese shares fell Wednesday to a 22-month low and the communist leadership, ever mindful of threats to its authority, is on alert for possible unrest.
But, hey, don't worry, because Barack knows that the Chinese economy, unlike ours, is fundamentally strong!