It's A Christmas Knockout 1973

Entrants 1973: Belgium (B) • Great Britain (GB) • Italy (I) • Netherlands (NL) 

Michel Lemaire (RTB - B)
Stuart Hall (BBC - GB)
Rosanna Vaudetti and Giulio Marchetti (RAI - I)
Dick Passchier and Barend Barendse (NCRV - NL)

International Referees:
Gennaro Olivieri
Guido Pancaldi

Lydia and Franca

Games Designer: Adolfo 'Popi' Perani

National Producers:
Diane Lange (RTB - B)
Barney Colehan (BBC - GB)
Luciano Gigante (RAI - I)
Dick Van't Sant (NCRV - NL)

Gian Maria Tabarelli (RAI - I)

Produced by RAI (I), RTB-BRT (B), BBC North West (GB), NCRV (NL)


It's A Christmas Knockout 1973

Christmas Special

Event Staged: Wednesday 5th December 1973
Venue: Stadio Olimpico del Ghiaccio (Olympic Ice Stadium), Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy

European Transmissions (Local Timings):
RAI Uno (I):
Tuesday 25th December 1973, 8.45-9.55pm (il Natale)
BBC1 (GB):
Wednesday 26th December 1973, 2.35-3.25pm (Boxing Day)
NCRV (NL): Monday 31st December 1973, 7.10-8.00pm (Oudejaarsavond)

Weather Conditions: Snowing

Theme: Festive Fun

Teams: Pepinster (B) v. Aviemore (GB) v.
Cortina d’Ampezzo (I) v. The Dutch Sports Stars (NL)

Team Members included:
Aviemore (GB) -
Hughie Clarke, Kenny Dixon, Jacqui Driver, Stewart Forbes, Marilyn Hemingway, Mary MacKenzie, Arthur MacLean, Iain McDonald, Bill McKenna, Lorna McKenna, Iain Malcolm, Jill Patterson, Malcolm Wilkie;
Dutch Sports Stars (NL) - Johannes ‘Jan’ Janssen, Ari Klein, Rudolfus ‘Rudi’ Lubbers, Eduard ‘Eddy PG’ Pieters Graafland, Elsa Sprite.

Games: The Christmas Tree Star, Comet in the Sky, The Flying Doves, The Christmas Presents, Bears and Stockings, Giant Mono-Skiing Snowmen, The Ostrich Eggs and Caramels on the Tree.

Game Results and Standings


Team / Colour

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Points Scored
B 1 1 2 4 1 2 1 2


2 3 3 1 4 1 1 1
I 4 2 4 3 4 4 3 4
NL 3 4 2 2 2 3 4 3
Running Totals
(Leading teams shown in red)
B 1 2 4 8 9 11 12 14


2 5 8 9 13 14 15 16
I 4 6 10 13 17 21 24 28
NL 3 7 9 11 13 16 20 23




Final Scoreboard


 I • Cortina d'Ampezzo
 NL • The Dutch Sports Stars
 GB • Aviemore
 B • Pepinster


The Host Town

Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy

This festive heat was staged at Cortina d’Ampezzo, a town in the Alps of Northern Italy with a population of around 6,200 inhabitants. Located in an alpine valley in the heart of the Dolomite mountain range, it is a popular winter sport resort known for its ski-ranges, scenery, accommodation, shops and après-ski scene.

Situated at the top of the Valle del Boite, Cortina d’Ampezzo is encircled for 360° by the Dolomites. The town centre is located at an elevation of 1,224m (4,015ft), although the highest point is that of the Tofana di Mezzo which towers at 3,244m (10,643ft). There is a significant water presence in the territory in the form of torrents, streams and little lakes, which fill particularly during the summer snow-melt season. Fauna include marmots, roe deer chamoises and hares.

During the Middle Ages, Ampezzo fell under the jurisdiction of the Holy Roman Empire, but in 1420, the village was conquered by the Republic of Venice. In 1508, it was conquered by Austria and by 1511, the people of Ampezzo swore loyalty to Emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519). Following Italy's victory in World War I, Ampezzo was finally given to Italy and, although remaining a Habsburg possession until 1920 and being home to an ethnic German minority, Ampezzo never became a teutophonic (German-speaking) territory. Instead it conserved its original language of Ladin, which is similar to the Swiss Romansch language, but one that is only spoken in the Dolomitic area.

After the War, the town was renamed Cortina d'Ampezzo (Curtain of the Ampezzo Valley), adopting the name of one of the six villages that made up the territory of Ampezzo, located in the middle of the Ampezzo valley.

Already an elite destination for the first British tourists from the late 18th century up to the early twentieth, Cortina d'Ampezzo also became a favourite resort for upper-class Italians after World War I. On the announcement that the town had been chosen to host the VIIth Winter Olympics of 1956, a new airport was constructed, but today it is no longer in use.

After playing host to the Olympic Games, it became a world-renowned resort, experiencing increased mass tourism and as a result, the town and surroundings have found themselves being utilised for various world cup events and motion pictures. Much of 1963 classic comedy The Pink Panther, the progenitor of the film series starring Peter Sellers (1925-1980) was filmed in Cortina D’Ampezzo. One of the most memorable James Bond stunt sequences in the 1981 film For Your Eyes Only, where Bond has to escape a crew of assassins on spike-wheeled motorcycles was filmed there, with his route taking them all onto the resort’s bobsleigh run. The scene of the first attack on Bond (portrayed by British actor Roger Moore) and his partner Melina Havelock (portrayed by French actress Carole Bouquet) in which two motorcyclists attempt to run them over only for Bond to eliminate them both, was set in the actual town centre. Also filmed on its slopes were several scenes in the 1993 film Cliffhanger starring Sylvester Stallone and the 1983 film Krull starring Ken Marshall and Lysette Anthony. The town is also known for its jet-set and European aristocracy crowd.

The Venue

Stadio Olimpico del Ghiaccio (Olympic Ice Stadium)

The games were played at the Olympic Ice Stadium which was constructed between 1952 and 1954, primarily as an open-air figure skating arena after the town was awarded the honour of hosting the 1956 Winter Olympic Games. The venue was inaugurated on 26th October 1955 and was designed to hold between 7-8,000 spectators, with the possibility of making temporary arrangements to accommodate 12-15,000 spectators for the period of the Olympics. During the Games, the arena held the opening and closing ceremonies, the figure skating events and selected ice hockey games. Although originally open-air, a roof was added to the structure sometime after 1981. In common with the town, the stadium was also utilised in the 1981 film For Your Eyes Only, for the scene in which Bond met with Aris Kristatos (portrayed by British actor Julian Glover) wherein Kristatos (the real villain) tries to trick Bond into pursuing and killing his rival Milos Columbo, portrayed by Israeli actor Chaim Topol.

The Games in Detail

Game 1 - The Christmas Tree Star

The first game - ‘The Christmas Tree Star’ - was introduced by Italian co-presenter Giulio Marchetti and featured four large Christmas trees and Santa Clauses each standing on a small podium on four legs made of eight blocks. On the whistle, the competitors had to raise a large star up the front of the tree by means of small metal rods which had to be added one-by-one under the star. In the meantime, an opposing team member armed with a ball and chain on a curling stone had to be pushed down the ice rink by her team-mates in order to knock the blocks from under the podium, and thus hindering the competitors’ game. If the competitor was knocked off the podium, he had to rebuild it before continuing to play. The team completing the task in the faster time would be declared the winners. A straightforward game of 3 minutes 30 seconds duration ended with an unsurprising result with Italy finishing in 1st place in just 47 seconds and picking up 4pts. They were followed by Netherlands finishing in 2nd place in 1 minute 20 seconds (3pts), Great Britain in 3rd place in 1 minute 21 seconds (2pts) and Belgium finished in 4th place (1pt) having failed to complete the game.

Game 2 - Comet in the Sky

The second game - ‘Comet in the Sky’ - was introduced by Belgian commentator Michel Lemaire and was a simple case of tossing a comet, in reality a large ball with some silver streamers added, up into the air and through a large ring disguised as a star, hanging above the arena. Played in four individual rounds, it featured five female competitors from each team, four of whom were armed with a large net. On the whistle, the ‘comet’ had to be placed into the net by the fifth competitor and then tossed through the star. If the comet passed through the star, it had to be caught cleanly by the fifth competitor for a finishing time to be achieved. If the comet was not caught or it touched the ice, it had to be replaced in the net and the game repeated. The time limit on the game was 1 minute 15 seconds and the Italians participated first, but unlike the first game, their competitors were not as adept and although it took six attempts, the comet was successfully tossed through the star. Unfortunately, although their competitor caught it cleanly, she allowed it to touch the ice. However, after replacing the comet into the net, they achieved their goal on the very next attempt and completed the game in 58 seconds. The second team to participate were from Belgium and they fared worse than the Italians. After 10 failed attempts, they finally achieved their goal on the 11th attempt and just inside the limit time of 1 minute 15 seconds. The team from the Netherlands showed how to play the game in the third round by tossing the comet through the star on their first attempt and were given a time of just 5 seconds. The final round saw the British team and after failing on their first attempt, they completed the game in 16 seconds on their second attempt.

The scoreboard now showed the Netherlands had taken the lead with 7pts (after being awarded 4pts), Italy had been demoted to 2nd place with 6pts (2pts), Great Britain retained 3rd place with 5pts (3pts) and Belgium were still trailing in 4th place, a position that they would not rise from throughout the competition, with just 2pts (1pt).

Game 3 - The Flying Doves

The third game - ‘The Flying Doves’ - was introduced by Dutch commentator Dick Passchier. It was an ingenious and magical game from the mind of Italian games designer Adolfo ‘Popi’ Perani. It would be remembered as one of the most delightful games to watch in Jeux Sans Frontières history. Around the arena were four national referees on raised tennis umpire seats with a small dovecote attached. On the ice below were four opposing competitors armed with large butterfly nets and dressed as Santa Clauses inside pantomime horse costumes. On the whistle, one of the referees let one of the mechanical doves loose and it flew around the arena above the competitors heads and their task was to catch it in the nets. Any doves that were caught had to be placed on small individual fir trees located at the edge of the rink. Any doves that flew out of the arena or landed on the ice before being caught were nullified and a replacement released. However, competitors had to move quickly after catching a dove because a replacement was released immediately whilst they took their captured one to their respective tree. The time limit for the game was 3 minutes 45 seconds, after which the results were announced. The Italians had caught 5 doves and were awarded 4pts, Great Britain had caught 4 doves (3pts) and Netherlands and Belgium had caught 3 doves each (2pts).

With the points added to the scoreboard, the Italians had regained the lead with 10pts, a position they would retain for the remainder of the programme, whilst the Dutch had been demoted to 2nd place with 9pts. Great Britain retained their 3rd place with 8pts and Belgium were in 4th place with just 4pts.

Game 4 - The Christmas Presents

The fourth game - ‘The Christmas Presents’ - was introduced on the ice by British commentator Stuart Hall and involved collecting 11 Christmas presents of varying sizes wrapped in silver, red, blue and green coloured paper. At one end of the course was a competitor kneeling down on a large curling stone which was attached to an elasticated rope and had to be pushed down the ice to the podium where the presents were located. If the pushers were successful and the competitor on the curling stone reached the podium, he could decide how many of the presents to transport back to the start. However, he was not permitted to stand up on the stone and could only kneel up to reach them. At the base of the pile there were 2 small boxes wrapped in silver paper, on top of which were 4 medium boxes wrapped in red. Above these were 3 large boxes wrapped in green and at the top of the pile were 2 extra-large boxes wrapped in blue paper. Only boxes cleanly returned to the start were counted and the team collecting the greater number of boxes in time limit of 1 minute 10 seconds (sufficient for three runs) would be declared the winners. The British team participated first and made a complete shambles of the game. On the first run, the competitor knocked all the boxes off the podium, securing only two of them to take back to the start. On the second run, he failed to collect any boxes at all, and on his third run he only added one more. He was given a total of just 3 boxes. The Dutch competitor participated next and he failed to collect any boxes on his first run. On his second run, although he attempted to collect the top 7 boxes, he dropped most of them and ended up with just one being brought back to the start. However, his third and final run was to prove more fruitful and he secured another four to give Netherlands a total of 5 boxes. The Belgian competitor participated next and, despite being only 1.62m (5ft 4ins) tall, he made the game look easy after securing the top 5 boxes on his first run. His second run proved just as fruitful with another 5 boxes and on his final run he brought back his final box. The Belgians had scored a maximum of 11 boxes in the allotted time. The final heat saw the home team participate and although on his first attempt the Italian brought five boxes back to the start, the two extra-large boxes tumbled from the pile before crossing the line. Whilst his team-mate skated up the ice to retrieve them, he started his second run and secured all 7 of the smaller-sized boxes and brought them back to the start. With the 2 extra-large boxes back on the podium, the Italian made his final run and although he lifted both of them off the podium, the backward pull of the rope caused the top box to tumble. The Italians finished the game with a total of 10 boxes.

With the points added to the scoreboard, all the teams were in the same position as they were at the start of the game. The Italians were leading with 13pts (3pts awarded) with the Dutch in 2nd place with 11pts (2pts). Great Britain were in 3rd place with 9pts (1pt) and Belgium, having won the game (4pts), had improved their score somewhat but remained in 4th place with 8pts.

Game 5 - Bears and Stockings

The fifth game - ‘Bears and Stockings’ - was introduced by Italian co-presenter Rosanna Vaudetti and had a duration of 4 minutes. It featured competitors dressed as black bears, suitably attired in colour-coded costumes, kneeling on curling stones. Above the rink was a large circular wheel from which were hanging a large number of Christmas stockings. On the whistle, it was a simple case of the black bears being pushed under the ring and then reaching up, grabbing a stocking and then returning it to their starting position. All four teams participated together and at the final whistle, Great Britain and Italy had collected 10 stockings each whilst Netherlands had 6 stockings and Belgium had 4 stockings.

The scoreboard was now showing Italy (having been awarded 4pts) in 1st place with 17pts, Great Britain (4pts) had temporarily been promoted to joint 2nd place with the Netherlands (2pts) on 13pts each whilst Belgium (1pt) were in 4th place with just 9pts.

Game 6 - Giant Mono-Skiing Snowmen

The sixth game - ‘Giant Mono-Skiing Snowmen’ - was introduced by Belgian commentator Michel Lemaire and was played in two heats of two teams with each team equipped with a giant snowman ‘standing’ on mono-ski. The snowman comprised two parts, head with upper body and lower torso, and these sections were held together by a giant scarf wrapped around the neck and crossed over at the front. On the whistle, two competitors from each team had to ski with the snowman up a course, circumnavigate a small Christmas tree and then return. This then had to be repeated twice and after all three runs had been completed the time was taken. The Belgian and British teams participated in the first heat and the Belgian team finished marginally ahead in 1 minute 20 seconds whilst the British team were given a time of 1 minute 21 seconds. The second heat saw Italy and Netherlands participate and they were both quicker, with the Italians finishing first in 1 minute 3 seconds and the Dutch crossing the line just behind them in 1 minute 5 seconds.

With the points added to the scoreboard, Italy (4pts awarded) were leading with 21pts with the Netherlands (3pts) in 2nd place with 16pts. Great Britain (1pt) had dropped back to 3rd place once more with 14pts and Belgium (2pts awarded) were in 4th place with 11pts.

Game 7 - The Ostrich Eggs

The seventh and penultimate game - ‘The Ostrich Eggs’ - was introduced by Dutch commentator Dick Passchier and was played in four individual heats. The game featured a female competitor with a large ostrich egg (a large white balloon) and her task was to keep the balloon aloft using a small baton whilst transporting it across the ice. In opposition was a male competitor dressed as an ostrich. His task was to prevent her from keeping the balloon aloft by bursting it with a pin attached to the head of his ostrich costume or by forcing her to allow the balloon to hit the ice. If the balloon did in fact touch the ice, the competitor had to return to the start and begin again but this time using a medium-sized baton. This would be increased to a long baton (something that would impair the competitors’ control of the balloon) if a third run had to be made. However, if the ostrich fouled the competitor he was penalised by having to reposition himself some metres back whilst the competitor could recommence the game from the point of contact. This penalty would come to assist one of the competitors somewhat in the third of the four heats. The first heat saw the Dutch participate with Belgium in opposition and they completed the task in 42 seconds. The second heat saw Great Britain participate against Italian opposition, and it wasn't long before their first balloon was burst by the ostrich. Returning to the start, competitor Jill Patterson then made a mess of the game and failed to complete it and was declared out-of-time. The third heat was a reverse of the second with the Italians competing against British opposition, but despite a brave effort by the ostrich, he could not prevent the Italian signorina from completing the game in 51 seconds. The final heat was a reverse of the first with the Belgian competitor participating against Dutch opposition. Unfortunately for the Belgians, their competitor had hardly got started when she allowed the balloon to hit the ice after just 2 seconds. After this, the Belgian competitor made heavy weather of the game and, as was the case with the British competitor, she failed to complete the game and also declared out-of-time.

With the points added to the scoreboard and with one game still to play, the overall result had already been decided. Italy (3pts awarded) were now in an unassailable position, leading with 24pts whilst the Netherlands (4pts) retained and were also guaranteed their 2nd place with 20pts. Great Britain (1pt) were in 3rd place with 15pts and Belgium (1pt) were in 4th place with 12pts. The best the Belgians could hope for was a third place tie, but they would have to win the last game with the British finishing in last position.

Game 8 - Caramels on the Tree

The eighth and final game - ‘Caramels on the Tree’ - was introduced by British commentator Stuart Hall and appeared to have an element to it which was not really required. On the ice were the four large Christmas trees utilised earlier in the first game. Around each of the bases was a length of rope with large Christmas ball decorations attached and was wrapped in tinsel. On the whistle, a girl from each team carrying a large caramel would skate up the course and hang it from her respective tree. In the meantime, her team-mate would continually circumnavigate the tree whilst holding the rope outstretched. The point of this element was unexplained as it did not hinder or assist his team-mate or opposition in any way. The team hanging all 15 caramels from the tree in the faster time would be the winners. The game ended with the Italians finishing first and being awarded 4pts, followed by the Dutch in 2nd place (3pts), the Belgians in 3rd place (2pts) and Great Britain finishing in 4th place (1pt). The British had finished last as the Belgians had hoped, but they themselves only managed one place better and as a result, the embarrassment of last place was theirs.

At the end of the first game, referee Guido Pancaldi annotated the Belgian and British times / points awarded incorrectly on the portable mini-scoreboard being held by the scoregirl. However, as he read out the points awarded and they were added to the master scoreboard, it was clear that he had realised his mistake, as he could be seen in the background, erasing the times and adjusting them to their correct positions.

Additional Information

Before the official finishing positions were declared, the scoreboard next to where Stuart Hall and the referees were standing had already been updated and was showing the final scores before they had been announced!

Made in Colour • This programme exists in the BBC Archives


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