1974: Nancy

It was through complete coincidence that my wife and I found ourselves in this adventure. We were both students of EPS (Physical and Sports Education) in Nancy - I was player of handball in first league and my wife was a sprinter. We were unaware of Jeux Sans Frontières and we didn’t know where we were going!

Noëlle Jarry, a high level athlete in the Olympic discipline of discus throwing, was engaged by the festival committee of Nancy to bring together a JSF team after the failure in Offenburg, West Germany in 1971. This event had proved a huge disappointment for the first Nancy JSF team, which had been mainly composed by firemen. The Nancy Jeux Sans Frontières entry would for 1974 be prepared like a sporting competition. We at EPS were used to the sports training and discipline that this approach required and every one of us had confidence in ourselves and in our partners. The selection was very serious and we never took the participation in these TV programmes like something only for fun, in respect to the cities that showed confidence in us.

10th July 1974 - JSF International Heat - Barga, Italy

We left on Sunday 7th July with single goal to erase the shame of Offenburg. The team was composed of students of EPS and of high level athletes of Nancy: the likes of Dominique Herbinet (Captain, marked CP in photo), Thierry Dabrowski (1), Jean-Pierre Desquatre (2), Patrick Dubois (3), Marcel Desbuis (4), Philippe Genin (5), François Lombard (6), Christian Ries (7), André Rotta (8), Geneviève Serreau (Ladies' Captain), Marie-Lyse Jacquiert (10), Noëlle Jarry (11), Josette Lombard (12) and Catherine Spettel (13). My wife Josette and I are still in contact with most of the team members. We are almost all professors of EPS and living in the same constituency. As we were a team together in those moments, each one of us stays attached to another.

On our arrival, we enjoyed a brief rest at the hotel where all delegations were gathered. Mr Yvan Huc, the assistant to the Mayor and responsible for our stay, found us a hotel 30km away. He declared to us: 'Often, the French are considered as les charlots. I ask you to give your best. It's not just a case of singing La Marseillaise - we must take this seriously and be well-prepared.' Mr Huc had attended the Offenburg debacle and was as motivated to win this time as we were. His decision to locate us at an out-of-town hotel was influenced by his preference for the outdoor life in the countryside, away from the bustle of the city.

To be honest, we didn’t try to get to know the other teams until the programme was over. In our minds was only one mission: to win. It was the rule. Maybe this surprises a little, but it was essential to have a chance to succeed. However, I was always trying to establish contacts with the referees, commentators, technicians, because when you want to succeed you should have all the necessary information on the environment of the games and you can work this to an advantage.

The stay in Barga was around five days, but it was far from a holiday. We had to rehearse the games and the programme continuously and engage in publicity acitivities also. Despite this, the fatigue caused by the continuous schedule was manageable. All the French teams had the same sports advisor, Robert Creux, who would later become a professor of EPS. With his advice and experience, we were always fit and ready to compete without restraint.

This first adventure finished in a huge victory which obliged us to abandon the Barga Stadium under police escort, because Italian wanted to ridicule us. There were many broken bottles under the wheels of our bus!

  Nancy Team Schedule - Barga 

Monday 8th July 1974
8.30-11.30am: Induction of the participants, photos, presentation of games from the test team
11.45am: Reception of delegations, teams and authorities
1.00pm: Lunch
2.30-4.30pm: Costume tests
7.30pm: Dinner
9.00-11.30pm: Camera rehearsals

Tuesday 9th July 1974
9.00am: Excursion for teams
1.00pm: Lunch for the Mayors under invitation, exchange of presents between municipalities
4.00-6.00pm: Rehearsals
7.00pm: Dinner
9.00pm: General rendezvous at the arena
10.00pm: General rehearsal with spectators

Wednesday 10th July 1974
9.30am: Meeting of the captains, making of lists for the draw
11.30am: Teams in the arena for changes in costumes
1.00pm: Lunch
7.00pm: Dinner for the teams
8.30pm: Costumes given to players
9.00pm: General rendezvous at the arena
10.00pm: JSF Heat live - Eurovision
11.30pm: Final party in Il Ciocco, Barga

Thursday 11th July 1974
Meetings of the producers, and later departure of the delegations and authorities.
5.00pm: Arrival in Nancy, welcome by Mayor in Villers Airport
6.00pm: Presentation of the trophy in ORTF studios in Nancy

We felt very proud of our victory. It’s a feeling we have in team sports when we have to fight to get the result. We left with the satisfaction of a job well done, our mood one of jubilant happiness.

The trip back was very nice. On the way, we visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa and, back home in Nancy, the Mayor was waiting to welcome us. Within days, we received further good news by post - that we had succeeded in our exams to be professors of EPS! This moment was the best of this adventure and we exploded with joy. It was the culmination of an extraordinary week in our lives. We hadn’t received any presents or prize money for our performance in Jeux Sans Frontières, but we didn't need any of that. Why would we? The participation and achievement was our reward!

18th September 1974 – JSF International Final -
Leiden, Netherlands

My participation in the International Final in Leiden was under threat from the off, as I was by then in compulsory military service! There were interventions made at the highest level, but these were poorly received by the military authorities, making it even more complicated for me to obtain permission. The day before the team were due to depart for Leiden, I was still on manoeuvres. At the last minute, I was told I could go and was flown to Nancy in a military plane. I arrived just in time to join the team for the departure for Leiden, on 15 September.

In terms of the competition, it was becoming easier. We knew what we would face there, and we were expected to be strong, even indestructible. The team chosen for the International Final comprised: André Laurain (Team Captain), Noëlle Jarry, Marie-Lyse Jacquiert, Catherine Spettel, Geneviève Serreau, Dominique Herbinet, Thierry Dabrowski, Patrick Dubois, Philippe Genin, Christian Ries, Marcel Desbuis, Jean-Pierre Desquatre, Joëlle Carpentier, Maurice Rejwerski, my wife Josette and I. We played to honour the memory of our fellow team mate André Rotta, a superb athlete who died between our two 1974 participations.

I remember the team bus, which was equipped with televisions – very luxurious for the time – and the life in barracks at the Holiday Inn, Leiden and also that we had to change flight at Den Haag on the way to Leiden.

Looking back, I think the most striking memory of each Jeux Sans Frontières competition I was involved in was the moment we would see the Eurovision logo on televisions for the public. First we would hear the opening music of Jeux Sans Frontières, then the teams were presented to the audience and the viewers and through these moments, the stress was becoming bigger and bigger! It was always good to get on with the games.

At the end, even if our 3rd place finish left us a little disappointed, our team, used to fighting but very young, found inspiration in this first experience of an International Final. We had a common ambition and the power to succeed in the next events. We wouldn’t permit any other failure even on Intervilles!

  Nancy Team Schedule - Leiden       

Monday 16th September 1974
9.00am: Induction of the teams, official photos
10.00am: Games presentation
11.45am: Reception for teams and authorities in City Hall
1.00pm: Lunch
3.00-6.00pm: Camera rehearsals
6.30pm: Dinner
8.00pm: Teams and authorities in games arena
8.30pm: Camera rehearsals
11.00pm: Departure by bus for a party (in which we didn’t participate)

Tuesday 17th September 1974
9.30am: Team excursion, visit to Leiden, exchange of presents
1.00pm: Lunch
5.00pm: Dinner
7.45pm: Costume tests
9.00-11.30pm: General rehearsal with spectators

Wednesday 18th September 1974
9.30am: Meeting of captains, delivery of the list for the draw
12.00pm: Meeting with commentators
12.30pm: Lunch
3.30pm: Costume tests
3.30-6.30pm: Camera rehearsal without the teams
5.30pm: Dinner
7.45pm: Costumes given to players
8.00pm: General rendez-vous in the games venue
9.00pm: JSF Final live - Eurovision
11.00pm: Final party at the hotel

Thursday 19th September 1974
Departure and return to France

After the Leiden Final, I had to go back to the military camp, where I was expected not with the best intentions. The military authorities hadn't appreciated the political pressures employed to grant my permission. I was envied by the officers since I was also privileged through my handball activities. I had to live with many pressures.

We had a great welcome from the television officials. We had a pleasant contact with Guy Lux, who was so maligned and yet so professional. This contact would continue over the coming years with our involvement in the Intervilles series. Memorably, at the birth of our daughter, Simone Garnier wished us with lot of kindness.

by François Lombard
with thanks to Sébastien Dias

Translated by Christos Moustakas