Zeskamp (which loosely translates as 'hexathlon') started out in 1968 as an annual competition over eight weeks which was produced and broadcast jointly by the BRT in Belgium and NCRV in the Netherlands. Each week's competition featured the same six teams (three from Belgium and three from the Netherlands) and each winning team would be presented with a trophy. The games played in Zeskamp were very much in the same vein as those devised for Great Britain's It's A Knockout at around the same time. However, when the Netherlands were ready to join the international Jeux Sans Frontières series in 1970, Zeskamp received a radical revamp.

Mirroring the process on It's A Knockout (from 1967-1982) whereby winning teams would qualify for the European competitions, Zeskamp returned in late 1969 as the means by which Dutch teams qualified for Jeux Sans Frontières (or Spel Zonder Grenzen as it was known to Dutch audiences). From this point until 1977, after which the Netherlands regrettably departed the international events, Zeskamp consisted of seven competitions a year, each usually contested by six teams from towns and provinces of the Netherlands. Of the twelve teams competing each year (nine in 1971-72), the six winners would go forward to the international competitions (with a seventh contesting a home heat). In a diversion from the show's original format, trophies were no longer awarded to heat winners - qualification for Europe was the prize - although in line with the British domestic series, the highest-scoring winning team from each year's programmes were proclaimed 'Dutch Champions'. Dutch Champions of Zeskamp for 1974 were the team from Mill, who participated in Avenches, Switzerland in a very closely fought international heat, which ended with the Dutch team bringing up the rear in 7th place, just ten points behind the joint winners from Great Britain and Italy.

As with the West German domestic series Spiel Ohne Grenzen even the towns due to host Jeux Sans Frontières international heats in their respective countries had to compete for the right to play in them. This resulted in many West German and Dutch heats being held in towns that were not being represented in the events themselves. Mannheim and Bad Mergentheim (beaten in Spiel Ohne Grenzen by Füssen in 1975 and Alsfeld in 1976 respectively) and Groningen, Delft and Arnhem (beaten in Zeskamp by Aalten in 1970, Bladel in 1972 and Ten Boer in 1973 respectively) were among the hosts of Jeux Sans Frontières heats whose teams did not qualify to participate in the heats the towns were to stage.

Regular viewers of Jeux Sans Frontières would be familiar with the presenters of Zeskamp, Dick Passchier, Barend Barendse and Regine Clauwaert, who were well-known personalities in the Netherlands and Belgium and all of whom went on to present Dutch JSF heats in the 1970s. All three injected Zeskamp with an enthusiasm that was infectious.

When the NCRV decided to drop out of Jeux Sans Frontières after the 1977 season, they surprisingly kept Zeskamp in their schedules. It continued until 1987 with Dick Passchier remaining on board as the main presenter. The series, effectively in its third version by now, usually comprised a seven-week run each year, with programmes shown live on Wednesday evenings at 9.00pm. As at all points in Zeskamp's history, the competitions were between two teams from different towns each week. The programme was ultimately cancelled in 1987 owing to rising costs - the NCRV claimed that each week's transmission was costing them half a million guilders (roughly 250,000 euro) and this was an expense they could no longer afford.

The series was revived in the late 1990s and is now mainly a family-orientated show with clubs and organisations taking part against each other.

by Neil Storer and Alan Hayes