John J. MacAloon was, and still is, one of the most lucid observers of the Olympic Movement, as well as an indispensable maker and most prominent contributor to the field of study now known as Olympic studies. His whole oeuvre can be divided into three main areas of concern: the emergence and historical development of the International Olympic Committee, the anthropology of the Olympic Games, and the ethical and political dimensions of the Olympic Movement. In this article, I provide a brief elaboration of MacAloon's contributions in each of these areas, interspersing examples of how his scholarship influenced my own as appropriate. I begin by explicating the notion of communitas that underpins MacAloon's work and around which it revolves. I then explore the relevance of the communitas in MacAloon's scholarship on the “great symbol”; that is, the Olympic Games and their renowned five interlocking rings. I conclude by arguing that this great symbol, articulated in the context of communitas, frames and grounds the unique understandings of Olympism and the Olympic Movement that MacAloon has produced over the years.

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