TORONTO - After years of disappointments, Toronto has finally won a major international sporting event, beating two South American cities to host the 2015 Pan Am Games.

The decision came down Friday in Guadalajara, Mexico, where a team including Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Toronto Mayor David Miller made their last pitch to host the games.

"Our commitment, our pledge, our undertaking, our promise is to provide you with the best Pan Am Games ever," McGuinty told delegates assembled for the announcement.

"It's an exciting time for so many of us here."

Toronto won on the first ballot, with 33 votes, beating out bids from Lima, Peru, which got 11 votes and Bogota, Colombia, which came in third with seven votes. One vote was spoiled.

The decision came in an hour and a half earlier than expected, a sign to some of the strength of Toronto's bid.

It's an important win for a city that has lost two Olympic bids. Hamilton, which will host some of the events, has also lost bids for two Commonwealth Games.

Athletes and officials in Canada's sports community where thrilled with the news.

"That's awesome," said Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, who won a bronze medal in the hurdles at the 2008 Summer Olympics.

"It's going to bring the community closer and stronger. We are going to get more facilities, which is going to help the grassroots, the kids."

Pierre Lafontaine, Swimming Canada's chief executive officer and national coach, said bringing the Pan Am Games to Toronto is a stepping stone for the city to host a Summer Olympics.

"Having the Pan Ams there tells the world the city is ready for the world," said Lafontaine.

"I think it's a great stepping stone for it. I think it would be great to have the Olympics there as the next progression within this."

James Worrall, 95, the flag bearer for the Canada in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, said it was about time Toronto got games "of this calibre."

"We deserve it; we've tried before several times, as we have for Olympic Games as well, and having been connected with the Olympic movement in Canada for all my life, I'm very happy that we've been able to get them," he said.

"I'm trying to stay alive for these games in Toronto... but they've waited a little too long -- I'm not sure what kind of condition I'll be in for hurdling when I'm 101."

The Pan American Sport Organization, which represents the 42 countries across the Caribbean and the Americas and whose National Olympic Committees and determined the host for the 2015 Games, began a three-day meeting Wednesday.

The host city was chosen in a secret-ballot vote.

Each city had been hosting social events, attending meetings and rehearsing their presentations for Friday - their last sales-pitch before the vote.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper declined an invitation to travel to Mexico for the decision, but he welcomed the win Friday, saying that after the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, the Pan Am Games "will ensure that Canada continues to be a leader in sport on the world stage."

"Canadians love sports and we are known for our hospitality, an unbeatable combination for successful Games," Harper said.

Miller also paid tribute to the other two bidders, saying he looked forward to a "continued friendship."

"Thank you so much for your hard fought battle and leadership," said Miller.

"See you all in Toronto in 2015."

Organizers say the 2015 Games will bring new jobs, facilities and housing to Ontario.

Some have questioned the investment in the two-week Games, which includes $1.4 billion for the sporting event itself and $1 billion for an athletes' village - expected to be turned into a mixed-income neighbourhood serviced by transit.

The federal and provincial governments are each on the hook for 35 per cent of the $1.4 billion, or some $500 million each. Municipalities and private investors will pay the remaining $428.5 million.

But opposition to the Games has been muted, especially when compared to a campaign run by Bread Not Circuses against the 1996 Olympic bid.

A new team will now be put together to focus on selling the Games to Toronto, since most of the push so far has been on wowing the voters in Mexico.

Peter Kent, the federal minister of state of foreign affairs for the Americas, said he's confident the Games can secure domestic support, even though it has been muted so far.

"You win the bid and now you market it and explain the benefits to folks," he said.

"It's going to be a great economic stimulus for southern Ontario."

The last edition of the Games was held in Rio de Janeiro in July 2007 and the next is scheduled to take place in Guadalajara, Mexico, in October 2011.