By Tom Degun in Guadalajara

Tom Degun_in_GuadjalaraOn November 11, 2011, in St Kitts and Nevis, at precisely 6pm local time, Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) President Mike Fennell will open an envelope to reveal whether Australia's Gold Coast or Hambantota in Sri Lanka will host the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

The announcement, which will come at the end of the CGF General Assembly on the two-island nation, will undoubtedly bring joy for one candidate city and despair for the other but for Fennell himself the eagerly anticipated moment at the St Kitts Marriott Resort will be bittersweet regardless of the outcome.

This is because the announcement will be the 76-year-old Jamaican's last official act as CGF President and following the conclusion of the gathering in Caribbean, he will immediately stand down from the role and hand over the reins to current CGF vice-president Prince Tunku Imran of Malaysia - the only candidate standing for the prestigious position of President.

The moment will be a sad one for the CGF as Fennell has led the organisation for 17 years and overseen four consecutive successful Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in 1998, Manchester in 2002, Melbourne in 2006 and, most recently, Delhi in 2010.

Mike Fennell_with_Suresh_Kalmadi
Admittedly, Delhi was plagued by controversy in both the build up and aftermath of the event but the Games themselves were certainly a success and the corruption charges that continue to surround the Organising Committee and its highly suspect former chairman, Suresh Kalmadi (pictured above with Fennell), are an altogether a different issue.

But despite the problems, Fennell perhaps emerged from the event in the Indian capital with even more credit than he entered with after he appeared to be the one individual refusing to panic or bow to pressure despite the major worries over security fears and construction delays.

It is perhaps no surprise that the CGF President was such a remarkable figure of calm during the height of the Delhi problems as it was his not first major challenge in the role.

Indeed, his greatest task came when he was first elected to the position 17 years ago following the conclusion of the Victoria 1994 Commonwealth Games - also referred to as the "Lightweight Games".

There was no major problem with the event in the Canadian city but it was widely considered a "Minimalist Games" featuring only small, temporary venues and therefore proved rather a letdown following a superb Commonwealth Games in Auckland four years earlier.

So following the event in Victoria, Fennell took charge of the CGF from Sonny de O Sales of Hong Kong with everything to do in order to stop the Commonwealth Games from disappearing into the background and becoming a non-event.

Four blockbuster editions of the competition later, the Commonwealth Games is now well and truly back in business and right near the top of the pile when it comes to major, large scale global sporting events - something that is in no small part down to Fennell's considerable influence.

The Jamaican has not forgotten how much things have changed for the Commonwealth Games Movement in the last 17 years and it is something that he quickly brings up as we sit down to talk in the impressive surroundings at the InterContinental Hotel in Guadalajara, Mexico on the sidelines of the 2011 Pan American Games taking place in the city.

"Certainly when I first took on the position, it was quite a challenge because the Commonwealth Games and the Commonwealth Games Movement was rather in limbo," Fennell told me, looking extremely relaxed at the fact he will soon be relinquishing an extremely powerful position in international sport.

"I have always been a hands on person, which was very much required when I first came to office because of the worrying situation we were in.

"I quickly realised that it was important to build our relationships with international federations, the athletes and of course our own members to make sure that the Commonwealth Games didn't become isolated, which at the time, it appeared in danger of becoming.

"So due to the fact that I was, and still am, so heavily involved in international sport around the world [Fennell (pictured below with Asafa Powell) is currently the Jamaican Olympic Association President and the Pan American Games Organisation first vice president], I was able to build and sustain those vital relationships.

Mike Fennell_with_Asafa_Powell
"Certainly I am very proud of the relationships we have been able to build in my time in charge and subsequently the level of recognition we have achieved for the Commonwealth Games.

"I think I have been fairly successful, along with my colleagues, to change the perception of our organisation for the better and today we have a very viable situation, which seemed a long, long way off back then.

"Certainly, having served all those terms and headed the Games in Kuala Lumpur, Manchester, Melbourne and more recently Delhi, I have done my stint - if you want to call it that - and it is time for others to take it on which is why I am not seeking re-election for another four-year term.

"But it isn't exactly the end for me as I'm still going to be very heavily involved in sport.

"It is only the Commonwealth Games Federation position I am retiring from."

Under Fennell, the Commonwealth Games has become a highly sought after competition with multiple bidders rather than the one-horse race it was before his reign began.

manchester 2002_24-10-11
The Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games in particular - which proved the cornerstone of London's successful bid of the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics - truly put the event on the map and it is just one reason why the race for the 2018 competition between the Gold Coast and Hambantota is so close.

"Both Gold Coast and Hambantota have put forward such fantastic bids in this latest race," Fennell said.

"They are very different in terms of concept and approach but they are certainly two very, very exciting bids. I would be delighted to see the 2018 Commonwealth Games go to either Gold Coast or Hambantota because I feel they could both stage fantastic competitions.

"I feel very happy that the Commonwealth Games has reached a stage where we can attract two superb bids like these. They are both very professionally put together and both very focused on promoting the values of the Commonwealth Games and enhancing the Commonwealth Games Movement. I think it is excellent.

"Ultimately, it is up to our 71 member nations and territories to decide on where the event will be held but I will be happy whatever the outcome because they are both highly competent to put on the Commonwealth Games."

Prince Tunku_in_Gold_Coast_2018_October_2011
The job of ultimately ensuring that the 2018 Commonwealth Games are successfully delivered will fall primarily to the Jamaican's successor Prince Tunku (pictured), but Fennell is confident that the 63-year-old is up to the task.

"He is a seasoned sports administrator," said the Jamaican.

"He has held a number of senior positions in world sport as he has previously been President of the World Squash Federation (WSF) and an Executive Board member of the International Cricket Council ([ICC). He also is the President of the Olympic Council of Malaysia, an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member and has been a CGF vice-president for 11 years. So that is certainly a very competent base from which to start.

"But perhaps just as important for the Commonwealth Games Federation is the team I have left in place.

"We have got a fantastic chief executive in Mike Hooper who is more than capable of continuing the tremendous work he has done in the past and leading the team going forwards.

"To my mind, the Commonwealth Games Federation is a particularly well-oiled machine. We have very few people but we have achieved fantastic results to date.

"I mean, where we are today is light years ahead of where we were when I started.

"But there are challenges confronting the new administration going forward.

"The Commonwealth Games operates on a five-year plan so we do have a road map in place to see where we are going but it is crucial to continually look at it and to plot the future to see how the Commonwealth Games fits in with this very complex, congested and competitive world of sport where everybody wants their slice of the cake.

"So the plan for the future must always be monitored and adapted to ensure the continued success of the Commonwealth Games."

Fennell also revealed what he feels was the key to his successful time in charge.

"Perhaps the most satisfying and successful element of my tenure is that we still have that factor of being the 'Friendly Games' in this fiercely competitive world," he said.

"I really want to emphasise that point. It is central to what we do and what we stand for because we are all aware of the difficulties we faced in Delhi with the organisation and the venues and so on.

"Ultimately, we still managed to celebrate a successful Games but the high point for me was that all the athletes in Delhi were extremely pleased with the friendliness aspect and how they were treated throughout their time in India.

"We always talk in the sporting world and say we are here for the athletes but sometimes, at some competitions, that is not demonstrated at all. But at the Commonwealth Games we really do make it a focal point and Glasgow in 2014 is again going to be an athlete centred Games first and foremost.

"That is what I am most proud of and that is what the new administration must keep in mind if the Commonwealth Games is to continue to be a success and stand out uniquely in the world of sport."

Mike Fennell_Delhi_October_2010
So, as the end of his 17-year reign fast approaches, Fennell (pictured) appears both happy and confident to hand over the CGF baton.

He will certainly not be forgotten though, and, following his official handover to Prince Tunku, he will receive the honour of becoming a CGF life vice president.

After nearly two decades in charge, where he has led the Commonwealth Games Movement from the doldrums to great prosperity, I ask how he would like to be remembered for his time as President.

Not one ever to seek the limelight, the modest Fennell simply smiles at my question.

"Just as someone who was there and someone made his contribution," he said.

He certainly will be remembered for that and a whole lot more besides.

Tom Degun is a reporter for insidethegames