The New York Times has a very interesting interactive article dedicated to the evolution of the Olympic torch. Every city that hosts the Olympics is expected to design a unique logo, a signature building, as well as torch to represent the local tradition and national character.
The red curve of the 2008 Beijing torch is inspired by the shape of a traditional Chinese scroll. The swirling graphics are meant to evoke the phoenix--a key totem of the games and "clouds of promise." ••••