Competition of boules organized by Le Provençal
First broadcast date
Important attraction of the boules competition organized by the newspaper 'the Provençal' at Borély Park in Marseille, with the participation of the singer and entertainer Henri Salvador.
Sport and games
- France - South East - Marseille
The Boules competition organised by the Provençal
Pétanque is a sport now so associated with sunshine, cafés and relaxation it has become a symbol of the South of France.The 1964 pétanque competition, organised by a daily newspaper, le Provençal, is part of the legend.
Pétanque is a form of bowls. Since Roman Antiquity there have been many different ways of playing it. In the Middle Ages it was one of the popular, traditional games which marked rest days and feast days. The rules were not written down and varied from place to place, encouraging local pride. When in the 19th century modern sports appeared, with an implicit formalising of the rules and practices and the creation of clubs, the Lyonnaise boule became the accepted way of playing. Its domination over other forms meant that it became "the national game". In southern France, however, there was a simplified variant, called "la longue" or the "Provençal game". Although it's still about sending a bowl as close as you can to the jack (the cochonnet or bouchon) the game takes place on a larger pitch and the bowl is thrown after a three step run-up
In 1907 Jules Hugues, a shop-keeper from La Ciotat, known as Lenoir, found his rheumatism made the run-up so painful he couldn't put any strength into his throw. So he was allowed to throw with his feet planted on the ground. From then on people called this new form of bowls pè tanca, in the local dialect, meaning in French pieds tanqués or feet joined, anchored to the ground, a phrase which became corrupted into the single word pétanque. From that moment the Pitiot brothers worked on developing a separate game, different from provencal bowls not just because of the position of the feet, but also because it used a shorter pitch. The first competition was organised in La Ciotat in 1910, although it was not until 1927 that the rules of pétanque were written down. In the 1930's metal bowls replaced the studded boxwood bowls which the craftsmen of the Var had made their speciality. In 1945 the chairmen and representatives of the bowling committees in the Alpes de Hautes Provence, the Bouches-du-Rhône, the Gard, the Var and the Vaucluse decided to form the Federation française de Pétanque et Jeux provençal (FFPJ) whose first chairman, until 1958, was Ernest Pitiot. The headquarters was in Marseille.
The press played a decisive role in the development of bowls, as it did with the other spectator sports which appeared on the scene at the end of the 19th century. The daily regional press gave more and more space to sports news, at the same time creating and supporting sporting events. Le Provencal was part of all that. Already in the 1930's the radical Vincent Delpuech had opened the columns of the Petit Provencal to sport, supporting cycling races. Then in August 1944, because of various compromises with the Vichy regime, his newspaper changed its name to Le provencal and became particularly interested in regional sport. It created a bowls competition, building up a sporting calendar and making pétanque a spectator sport. The presence of the popular singer Henri Salvador at the 1964 competition certainly added to the competition's status. The exotic, smiling image of the singer, who was also a good player, reinforced the image of a holiday activity, at the very time more and more French people were taking holidays.
Ferrara Jean, Il était une fois… les boules, éd. Autres Temps, 2004, 160 p.