Beijing's first beauty pageant ended with a whimper when organizers named 12 "Girls of Elegance" at a hush-hush evening tea party, reports said.

The Sunday tea party ended the strange on-again, off-again saga of the Chinese capital's first beauty contest since the Communists came to power 39 years ago.More than 800 women had signed up to participate after an April announcement that Beijing would host a contest to select 10 "Girls of Youth and Elegance." Preliminary rounds narrowed the field to 50 contestants.

The Beijing contest ignited beauty pageant fever throughout the country, setting off a debate about whether such contests are appropriate in a country with a low standard of living.

Some cities quickly dropped plans to name local beauty queens.

Shanghai called off its contest earlier this month, claiming "conditions were not ripe."

A "Mr. Canton" and "Miss Canton" were named Saturday night before a crowd of 5,000 people in the southern city near Hong Kong - but plans to broadcast the pageant live were scrapped.

Meanwhile, Beijing Television Studio, one of two sponsors of the capital's pageant, announced last week that the capital's contest had been canceled.

But Contemporary Television magazine said Saturday that the pageant would be held as planned June 5, though it would not be televised, reporters would not be allowed to attend and there would be no news conference afterward.