The 2008 Beijing Games have been praised as "truly exceptional" by Olympics chief Jacques Rogge.
Sixteen days of action, starring 10,000 athletes from 204 nations, climaxed in Sunday's spectacular closing ceremony at the Bird's Nest Stadium.
"New stars were born. Stars from past Games amazed us again," said Rogge.
"We shared their joys and their tears, and we marvelled at their ability. We will long remember the achievements we witnessed here."
Rogge, the International Olympic Commitee president, added: "We come to the end of 16 glorious days which we will cherish forever. Thank you to the people of China."
Chinese President Hu Jintao acknowledged the support from around the world.
"The Beijing Olympics proceeded smoothly and successfully amid support from the international community," he said.
Liu Qi, head of the Beijing organising committee, was presented with a special award - known as the Olympic Order in Gold - to recognise the hard work that went into making the Games a success.
He said the event had been "a grand celebration of sport, of peace and friendship".
After the Olympic flag was handed over to 2012 hosts London on Sunday, the Chinese media reflected national pride.
"The Games was a historic climax of three decades of China opening to the world," said the English-language China Daily.
While China won global plaudits for staging a successful Olympics, protesters remained critical of the country's human rights record.
Despite fears over security, pollution and humidity, the 2008 Games will be remembered for some record-breaking achievements.
The Olympic flag passes from Beijing to 2012 hosts London
Hosts China topped the medals table for the first time, with 51 golds ahead of the United States (36) and Russia (23).
Great Britain were a surprise fourth - 19 gold medals was their best Olympic performance for a century.
Two competitors at the Games went from being famous in their own sport to being international superstars.
American swimmer Michael Phelps won eight titles, beating the 36-year-old gold medal mark set by Mark Spitz.
Jamaican Usain Bolt broke three world records as he cruised to a sprint title treble and livened up the athletics arena with his flamboyant celebrations.
And India celebrated its first individual Olympic gold medal, courtesy of Abhinav Bindra in the 10m air rifle shooting event.
The number of countries represented in the medals table was up to 86 from 74 in Athens four years ago.
Rogge said his own moment of the Games was the emotional meeting between two shooting medallists from warring Russia and Georgia.
"If I had a story to tell, it definitely would be the embrace and hug of Georgian and Russian athletes on the podium two days after there had been violent clashes in Georgia," he said.
Rogge said the IOC was "extremely pleased" by how the Olympics had unfolded.
"We had a splendid athletes' village, we had state-of-the-art venues, we had impeccable competition," said the 65-year-old Belgian, a former Olympic yachtsman.
"More than 40 world records were set, more than 100 Olympic records, and of course we had the two icons of the Games, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt."
There was a cautious response to the event from Japan, China's neighbour.
"Holding the Olympics was good in terms of China taking a more democratic path. We believe this is an irreversible path," said Japanese government spokesman Nobutaka Machimura.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd spoke positively about the Olympics and what they meant for the world.
"I think our friends in China have hosted a highly successful Olympic Games," said Rudd, a fluent Mandarin speaker who was once a diplomat in Beijing and attended the Games opening ceremony.
"I don't know of a single Olympic Games in recent history which has not generated controversy of one sort or another."
At a party to celebrate the handing over of the flag, mayor Boris Johnson said: "London is the sporting capital of the world.
"And I say to the Chinese, and I say to the world: Ping pong is coming home, athletics is coming home, sport is coming home."