It is recently reported that Shanghai-born world champion athletes will receive free basic health care after retirement. Twenty-three sportspersons, including 110-meter hurdler Liu Xiang, and four other outstanding coaches are listed in the program.
Professional athletes often undergo rigorous exercise regimes and are faced with a higher risk of injury compared to the ordinary public, necessitating proper health coverage that extends beyond the age of retirement.
According to Shanghai's municipal sports authority, the program includes both personal and commercial medical insurance supported by the Shanghai Sports Development Foundation. It is not free or for life while athletes and coaches will have to pay medical bills that exceed coverage.
However, the move has prompted public outrage, many suggesting champion sportspersons have received enough benefits and that the less successful should instead be granted further social security. The following are some opinions:
Le Shui (Guangzhou Daily): Most people only see the glory befalling champions while few realize the pain they have to endure to achieve success. The effects of injuries often linger beyond the age of retirement. Besides, due to a lack of other working skills, most face very hard lives when changing careers. Ai Dongmei, the one-time international marathon champion, had to support herself by selling small goods as a street vendor. Those athletes who seldom win medals might face even harsher circumstances.
With some believing that free lifelong medical treatment is unfair, who will ensure that champion athletes get fair treatment after retirement? I believe this should be the country's responsibility. In the future, medical insurance and basic social security should cover all levels of sportsperson and continue upon retiring. Commercial insurance and subsidies should be used to help battle disease and poverty.
Lian Haiping (Guangzhou Daily): As a kind of public resource, medical care should be fairly distributed. Offering world champions free medical treatment is damaging the principle of equal medical treatment. Medical service should be foremost spent on those who are in difficulty and thus badly need it, but not on those who are so rich and powerful that they care little about whether they can have free medical treatment or not.
Nowadays, sports activities and athletes receive commercial sponsorship, government awards and so on. Granting world champions free medical treatment can only add to the unfairness existing in current medical system. World champions have already got what they deserve and more awards will prove to be excessive.