Jeux Sans Frontières

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Jeux Sans Frontières
Jeuxsf logo 1994.jpg
Title card
GenreGame show
Created byGuy Lux
Pierre Brive
Claude Savarit
Jean-Louis Marest
Theme music composerJacques Revaux
Original language(s)English and French
No. of episodes30 editions
Production location(s)Held around Europe
Production company(s)European Broadcasting Union
Picture format4:3
Original release26 May 1965 (1965-05-26) – 23 September 1999 (1999-09-23)
Related showsIt's a Knockout

Jeux Sans Frontières (English: Games Without Frontiers, or Games Without Borders) was a Europe-wide television game show. In English-speaking countries, the show is also known as It's a Knockout, the title of the BBC's domestic version.

In its original conception, it was broadcast from 1965 to 1999 under the auspices of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and featured teams from different European countries in outlandish costumes (often large latex suits) competing to complete bizarre tasks in funny games. The original series run ended in 1982. It was revived in 1988 with a different complexion of nations and in its latest editions was hosted by smaller broadcasters, with the notable exception of Italy's RAI, which hosted three edition with a fixed location in 1996, 1998, 1999.


The idea of the show came from French President Charles de Gaulle, whose wish was that French and German youth would meet in a series of funny games to reinforce the friendship between France and Germany. The games were inspired by the matches between French cities. Some games were played in swimming pools. In 1965, three French men (Pierre Brive, Claude Savarit, and Jean-Louis Marest) spread the idea of the games to other European countries. Teams representing France, Germany, Belgium, and Italy took part in the first edition of the show called Inter Nations Games.

In the United Kingdom, participants came from the heats of It's a Knockout. The original presenter was McDonald Hobley, but he stayed for just one series before handing over to Katie Boyle, who in turn was replaced by David Vine and Eddie Waring. It was not until 1971 that the presenter most associated with the role, Stuart Hall, took over presenting the UK heats and also provided the British commentary for the international version along with Waring, who was better known as the BBC's Rugby League commentator. Wales had its own team between 1991 and 1994 and the programme was broadcast on S4C in Welsh by Iestyn Garlick.

Each participating country hosted one round of the games, presented by the host broadcaster. Every game was umpired by one or two "international" judges.


The first judges became household names in the UK, Gennaro Olivieri (1922–2009) and Guido Pancaldi (1922–2011). Both were Swiss and had been international ice-hockey referees (although Pancaldi is often wrongly referred to as being Italian, probably due to him coming from the Italian-speaking Canton of Ticino).

  • Gennaro Olivieri (1965–1982)
  • Guido Pancaldi (1966–1989)
  • Mike Swann (1988–1989)
  • Bernard Galley (1990–1991)
  • Denis Pettiaux (1990–1999)
  • Carlo Pegoraro (1996, 1998–1999)
  • Arthur Ellis (1971–1982)
  • Nenad Romano (1979–1982)
  • Bernhard Galley (1990–1992)
  • Babis Ioanidis (1995–1999)
  • Irini Kamperidiou (1994)
  • Nikos Mperedimas (1993)
  • Beertje van Beers (Dutch, 1997)
  • Lehel Németh (Hungarian, 1993–1995, 1999)
  • Orsolya Hovorka (Hungarian, 1996–1998)
  • Lea Vodusek (Slovenian, 1996–1997, 1999)

Participating countries and wins[edit]

Between 1965 and 1999, 20 countries participated in 30 editions of JSF (considering Czech Republic and Czechoslovakia as separate participants):

Country Broadcaster Years of participation Editions Finale Wins
 Belgium BRT, RTBF 1965–1982, 1988–1989 20 2 (1965, 1982)
 West Germany ARD 1965–1980 16 6 (1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1976, 1977)
 France ORTF, Antenne 2, France 2 1965–1968, 1970–1982, 1988–1992, 1997–1999 25 3 (1965, 1975, 1979)
 Italy RAI 1965–1982, 1988–1999 30 4 (1970, 1978, 1991, 1999)
  Switzerland SRG SSR 1967–1975, 1977–1982, 1992–1999 24 2 (1972, 1974)
 United Kingdom BBC, S4C (Wales) 1967–1982, 1991–1994 20 4 (1969, 1971, 1973, 1981)
 Netherlands NCRV, TROS 1970–1977, 1997–1998 10 0
 Liechtenstein No broadcaster 1976 1* 0
 Yugoslavia JRT 1978–1982, 1990 6 0
 Portugal RTP 1979–1982, 1988–1998 15 5 (1980, 1981, 1988, 1989, 1997)
 Spain TVE 1988, 1990–1992 4 1 (1990)
 San Marino SMRTV 1989–1991 3 0
 Tunisia ERTT 1992 1 0
 Czechoslovakia ČST 1992 1 1 (1992)
 Czech Republic ČT 1993–1995 3 2 (1994, 1995)
 Greece ERT 1993–1999 7 0
 Hungary MTV 1993–1999 7 3 (1993, 1996, 1998)
 Slovenia RTVSLO 1994, 1996–1997, 1999 4 0
 Malta PBS Malta 1994–1995 2 0

* Liechtenstein participated in 1976, replacing Switzerland in one single heat, and thus using the code FL (instead of CH).

When a team from Londonderry represented Great Britain, they were identified as 'NI' for Northern Ireland rather than GB. Wales participated from 1991 to 1994 on behalf of the United Kingdom, and were identified by the code GB in mainland Europe and by C (Cymru, the Welsh name for Wales) in Wales itself. Welsh was the transmission language of the participating broadcaster (S4C).

Czechoslovakia participated in 1992 with Czech teams only. There was no Slovak participation in JSF that year. In 1993, the Czech Republic entered the show as a separate country but Slovakia did not.

Each country was assigned a unique colour which it used on its uniforms and equipment.

Winning cities[edit]

Year Winner Runner-up Third place
1965 Belgium Ciney
France Saint-Amand-les-Eaux
No runner-up No third place
1966 West Germany Eichstätt Belgium Jambes
1967 West Germany Bardenberg France Nogent-sur-Marne United Kingdom Cheltenham Spa
Italy Montecatini Terme
1968 West Germany Osterholz-Scharmbeck Switzerland Stans France Vannes
1969 United Kingdom Shrewsbury
West Germany Wolfsburg
No runner-up Belgium Brugge-Zeebrugge
1970 Italy Como Netherlands Alphen aan den Rijn West Germany Radevormwald
1971 United Kingdom Blackpool Netherlands Alphen aan den Rijn Switzerland Willisau
1972 Switzerland La Chaux-de-Fonds Italy Città di Castello
Netherlands Venray
No third place
1973 United Kingdom Ely West Germany Marburg an der Lahn France Chartres
1974 Switzerland Muotathal Italy Marostica France Nancy
1975 France Nancy Italy Riccione Belgium Knokke-Heist
1976 West Germany Ettlingen Switzerland La Neuveville Belgium Geel
1977 West Germany Schliersee Belgium Uccle Switzerland Olivone
1978 Italy Abano Terme United Kingdom Sandwell France Fontainebleau
1979 France Bar-le-Duc Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Zrenjanin Belgium Lierde
1980 Portugal Vilamoura United Kingdom Rhuddlan Belgium Merksem
1981 United Kingdom Dartmouth
Portugal Lisbon
No runner-up Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Pula
1982 Belgium Rochefort Switzerland Versoix Portugal Madeira
1988 Portugal Madeira Belgium Profondeville
Spain Seville
No third place
1989 Portugal Azores Italy Monte Argentario France Nice
1990 Spain Jaca Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Bor Italy Treviso
1991 Italy Vigevano Portugal Leiria France Megève
1992 Czechoslovakia Třebíč Italy Breuil-Cervinia Portugal Lisbon
1993 Hungary Kecskemét Czech Republic Šumperk Switzerland Le Bouveret
1994 Czech Republic Česká Třebová United KingdomWales Wrexham (Wrecsam) Switzerland Olivone
1995 Czech Republic Brno Hungary Eger Switzerland Vallemaggia
1996 Hungary Kecskemét Portugal Lamego Italy Gran San Bernardo
1997 Portugal Amadora Italy Val di Sole Switzerland Schattdorf
1998 Hungary Százhalombatta Greece Komotini Netherlands Vlieland
1999 Italy Bolzano-Südtirol Greece Patras Hungary Budapest XII. District

Participants' colours[edit]

Revival attempt[edit]

The EBU announced plans to relaunch the series in summer 2007 with Belgium, Croatia, Spain, Greece, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Italy thought to be participating countries. However, due to financial setbacks, the plans were put on hold—originally for 12 months, but later they were abandoned altogether.

In popular culture[edit]

The show inspired Peter Gabriel's 1980 hit single, "Games Without Frontiers" (the direct English translation of the title), in which backing vocalist Kate Bush sings "jeux sans frontières" during breaks. The lyrics also refer to the original title: "It's A Knockout".

The BBC Radio 4 comedy programme I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again featured a version called Guerre Sans Frontières where gallant little Belgium always had to play the Joker. It was also used in "The Goodies and the Beanstalk" with the Goodies as the Joker and a grand prize of 5000 puppies.

The last album of the popular Macedonian pop singer Tose Proeski is named Games without borders (in Slavic Cyrillic: Игри Без Граници).

The Endeavour episode "Quartet" (series 5, episode 5) features a fictional 1968 Jeux Sans Frontières competition held in Oxford, broadcast by Southern Independent Television (rather than the BBC).

See also[edit]


External links[edit]