Before the ball got rolling in Europe, France and Switzerland
competed in a Winter series of Interneige played on the ski slopes of
winter resorts. Taking their lead from the French domestic special of
1964, also called Interneige, they were staged as
live events happening simultaneously in the resorts of the two competing
teams. Some competitors would travel to the rival’s town to compete in games,
whilst others would remain at home to face their travelling opposition there.
Crowds in the two locations could watch the events from the other town on a
series of television monitors erected at the scene of each event. The
programmes were mixed and broadcast live on the Eurovision Network of the
European Broadcasting Union. These series were only to last for four years but
would return again in 1976. A point to note was that the games were referred
to as ‘epreuves’ (translated into English as ‘tests’ or ‘events’), and to
provide parity throughout these pages we have elected to classify them as
After the 1965 Interneige series had reached its end,
Swiss Television decided to further gear up their viewers for the forthcoming
Jeux Sans Frontières series with a one-off Swiss version of
Intervilles entitled Bonsoir la Suisse. This programme aired in
late March, two months before Jeux Sans Frontières kicked off and
featured one team from each of the French-, German- and Italian-speaking
regions of the country. Quite possibly Swiss viewers would have been mildly
disappointed when the Summer series arrived, as their country's involvement
was limited to providing neutral juries. Swiss teams continued to participate
in the Winter Interneige series but would not compete in the Summer
competition until 1967.
In the Summer of 1965, four countries from Europe - Belgium, West
Germany, France and Italy - launched Jeux Sans Frontières together in
the summer. As was with the Winter series of Interneige, the events
took place at two locations each week. Each heat was deliberated over by a
neutral Swiss jury who spoke to their respective language-based studios in
Switzerland, but they had no influence on the scoring unless there was any
doubt of the result and then they would deliberate the outcome. They were also
responsible for drawing lots to determine which teams answered the question
round first, and if a heat ended in a draw then the jury decided which team
had proved themselves better in the heat and got the casting vote.
The highest positioned team with the greatest difference in
score to their respective opponents from each country progressed to one of two
Semi-Finals, the winners of which would meet in the International Final.
To ensure fairness, a draw for the Semi-Finals had taken place
before the series begun, and the two Semi-Finals would be France v. Italy and
Belgium v. West Germany.
Eagle-eyed viewers would notice that there were very few female
competitors in this first two series of the programme (except for the odd
‘intellectual’ participating in the Game of Questions round). This was mainly
due to the fact that all the games this period generally needed pure strength and
dexterity, something that changed as the series developed in subsequent years.
In Belgium, the BRT did not transmit the programme until 1969 -
it was only shown in the Wallonian, French-speaking area of the country, by
the RTB channel.
At the end of the year, both the Belgians and the French
enjoyed the spoils when the International Final ended in a draw. Jeux Sans
Frontières Golden Trophies were presented to each team participating in
front of their home crowd at Ciney and Saint-Amand-les-Eaux.
On a sadder note, Pierre Brive (real name Jules Pierre
Baldensperger) chairman of the jury for Interneige and the opening
programme of Jeux Sans Frontières, sadly passed away at the age of just
54 in Paris on 30th September 1965, just 15 days after the first-ever
International Final was staged. Brive had also been a founding producer and
director of Intervilles, and fulfilled the same roles on Interneige
and Jeux Sans Frontières. In respect of his memory, he continued to be
credited as the founder of the programme, along Guy Lux, in the opening titles
of each Interneige programme until 1968.