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of new public transport lines, as well as a number of less visible efforts such as those focused on protecting surface water sources in reservoir areas, centralising wastewater treatment or reducing the use of pesticides in rural areas. Beijing's foresight, determination and commitment to sustainability practices paid off. Environmental conditions improved dramatically in the lead- up to the Olympic Games. Air quality – which had been the chief concern among participants competing in endurance events – improved in each of the seven years prior to the Games and was considered safe for Olympic competition by all International Sports Federations. That was good news for athletes in 2008. It was even better news for Beijing's residents. Improvements in air quality is just one of the positive environmental legacies brought about by Beijing's preparation for the 2008 Games. There are many others. For example, the capital city's forest coverage rate has exceeded 50 per cent, allowing residents today to enjoy more green space than ever before. Safe treatment of urban wastewater and solid wastes has soared to 92 and 99 per cent, respectively. New car emission standards are now comparable to those of European cities. Coal-generated energy continues to be replaced, at a record clip, with cleaner- burning natural gas or renewable solar and wind energy. Six natural wetland areas have been established, covering an area of more than 50,000 hectares. The list goes on. Beijing's preparation for the Games has provided a blueprint for future host cities – or any urban centre, for that matter – looking to establish a comprehensive environmental management programme. It has reinforced the importance of the environment as the third pillar of Olympism. And, most importantly, it has dramatically improved the living conditions for current and future generations of Beijing's people. LEGACY