Let the Games Begin!

Jeux Sans Frontières (English translation: "Games Without Frontiers") was born out of Guy Lux/Mistral TV's Intervilles series, which had grown into a major success since its French television debut on July 17th 1962.

Intervilles SingleAfter three series of inter-town shenanigans, it was realised that Intervilles could blossom into something even bigger. Guy Lux and ORTF approached other European broadcasters and the idea of staging an inter-country sister series to Intervilles was born. Jeux Sans Frontières launched on May 26th 1965. In its first series, JSF was a competition between four European countries: France, Belgium, Italy and Germany.  

Legend has it that the inspiration for moving the series beyond its original town versus town format and out into Europe lay with the then-President of the French Republic, General Charles de Gaulle. De Gaulle reputedly advocated competitions to bring the youth of France and Germany together in a common pursuit. "The day when two cities, one German and the other French, meet in competition, we do not doubt that it will result in a better understanding of each of our two countries," he is reported to have said. Whether or not this statement was actually a direct influence on Guy Lux and those behind Intervilles is open to interpretation, but regardless, come 1965, the first pan-European competitions were played out.

JSF Heat 1 from May 1965Initially, Jeux Sans Frontières - at this point subtitled Internations - followed the format of Intervilles, with only two teams contesting each week's competition. One week the French would play the Germans, the next the Italians would face the Belgians, and so on for six weeks, with the highest scoring team from each nation qualifying for the semi-final stage. The two semi-final winners - in 1965, these were Saint-Amand-les-Eaux of France and Ciney of Italy - qualified for the grand final (the result of which was an 11-11 draw). This format was retained for 1966.

1967 saw some changes and you can read about them in the continuation article, The Formative Years.

by Alan Hayes, with thanks to JSFnetFRANCE