Burning Desire: Nostalgia, Ritual, and the Sport-Festival Flame Ceremony

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This essay first considers John MacAloon’s categorization of the sport-festival flame ceremony, particularly his discussion of the ritual as the expression of “spontaneous communitas.” The paper then goes on to forward a broad, transcendent reading of the ritual as it exists in the developed world and in the Olympic Games. The ceremony is proffered as one manifestation of a kind of universal image, and the soundings and bearings of that image as it has become important in physical culture and in the mass media are noted. One sport-festival flame ceremony context is defined by the feelings and emotions that are a part of public life and thought. In this sense the representation, the image, of the lighting of an altar at an athletic festival is recognized as a symbol of nostalgia. Furthermore, in a postmodern sense the ceremony is appraised as it has been selected, invented, and variously blurred, and as it has continued to garner narratives of such ideologies as nostalgia, in contemporary culture.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-257
JournalSociology of Sport Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 1991


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