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Former NBA star Yao Ming, now a member of the CPPCC National Committee, speaks at a news conference on Sunday. Jiang Dong / China Daily
Former NBA star Yao Ming, a first-time member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee, spent seven days writing his proposals, focusing on the best way to develop sports in the country.
As one of the most successful and well-known Chinese athletes, Yao, 32, admitted that success like his cannot disguise the fact that many Chinese athletes face problems finding work after they retire from sports.
"Players cultivated under the current State-sponsored system always lack a work skill, which may give them trouble after retirement," Yao added.
Public concern about retired athletes was raised in 2011 when former world gymnast champion Zhang Shangwu was found performing for tips and begging in Beijing's subways.
Zhang is not the only former star athlete to fall on hard times. Zou Chunlan, a former national champion in female weightlifting, was found working as a laborer in a public bathhouse.
Although the General Administration of Sport has created some special funds to retrain retired athletes and help them look for jobs, such efforts are inadequate to meet the demands of the large number of retired players, Yao said.
Such a phenomenon stirred a public outcry to overhaul China's State-sponsored sports system.
Yao's advice on that is: "Let the market decide what it is capable of supporting. Those sports not self-sufficient should be left to government."
Sports with limited popularity, like diving, gymnastics and weightlifting, still need government backing. The State-sponsored system in such relatively unpopular sports still has its advantages, Yao said.
"They would face the risk of extinction if they were left to the market right now," Yao said.
On the other hand, sports like tennis, basketball and football should be left to the market, Yao said.
China also should realize that sports and education are compatible in people's personal development, said Yao, who added that he is unhappy about some schools' decision to cancel long-distance running in physical education classes to avoid injuries.
A sudden death caused by marathon running at the end of last year prompted some Chinese schools to end long-distance running.
Canceling long-distance running because of concerns about students' health starts a vicious circle, as the lack of high-quality exercise will make students' health even worse, Yao said.
"I want sports to make more contributions (to education) and be an important part of education," Yao said.
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(China Daily 03/04/2013 page5)