CALGARY, FEB. 28 -- Music is not the universal language. The expressions of the human face cross frontiers and make language moot with far greater ease. When the Olympic flame is extinguished, as it was at the XV Winter Games tonight, we are not left primarily with medal counts or records but with memories of faces.

These 16 days have been about the joy in performance and the taste for glory that lit the beautiful, yet hungry faces of Alberto Tomba and Katarina Witt. They have been about the wonderful gall of gate crashers like Eddy Edwards and the Jamaican bobsled team, who would risk their necks to become visible, if only for a minute, just once in a lifetime.

We have seen Dan Jansen too sad for any words and Debi Thomas too conflicted to produce her best on demand. Who can forget Brian Boitano's smile, spreading, almost against his will, before his golden program even had ended? For Bonnie Blair, the moment of triumph brought out all her best; her eyes went to those she loved and her skates followed until she had passed out hugs and kisses to her whole small world.

The Games are over, but Canada and Calgary will have a hard time forgetting that silver comes in two grades of ore. Elizabeth Manley and Brian Orser now own identical figure skating medals. Yet Manley's is the highest prize she could imagine, the emblem of four minutes that will be her entire career in her nation's proud mind, while Orser's is the symbol of the tiniest, yet most fatal crack in his competitive nature.

Perhaps the face of defeat is more vivid because it is more common. "A few hundredths of a second split glory from failure," said Peter Mueller, whose face might have terrified a James Bond villain as he watched Swiss teammate Pirmin Zurbriggen roar down Mount Allan, tearing the downhill gold from his neck with every tick of the clock.

Perhaps expectation is everything. So many did so much here, yet their eyes showed how much more they had allowed themselves to want. Zurbriggen seemed more haunted and mystified with each race as talk of five golds, and his own hopes of three, turned into one.

The arms of fame have been met with violently different reactions. Vreni Schneider of Switzerland won the same two Alpine races for women that Tomba did for men, yet she gave only a wispy private smile in victory and was, to her pleasure, largely ignored. Tomba cried, threw his arms to heaven and sped to the nearest Italian flag. Or microphone.

The only man here with three gold medals, perhaps even the only athlete here who would be universally acclaimed as the greatest in the history of his sport, was Matti (Nukes) Nykanen. The Flying Finn was an almost total mystery. All his Olympic words could be written on the faces of his medals. Even his own coach dared not discuss ski-jumping strategy with him. Yet, in victory, he looked like a young choirboy with a mischievous streak, not a man known for supercilious insults and a drinking problem only recently reined under control. Perhaps only Nykanen seemed incapable of imagining defeat and, utterly at ease, almost amused, by his huge and easy victories.

If Nykanen was invisible on purpose, Yvonne van Gennip of the Netherlands was hidden by accident. Nobody else won three individual gold medals here. Yet van Gennip was overlooked until the final 24 hours of the Games, when she won two speed skating gold medals in events in which East Germans were huge favorites.

The Olympic camera loves those who are a bit too young or a mite too old and, therefore, play against a different and kinder standard. Ekaterina Gordeeva showed, as though we didn't know, that 16-year-old Soviets are as ready to burst with energy as 16-year-old Valley Girls. And Midori Ito, freed of any real chance to beat Witt, Thomas or Manley, could risk a program with seven triple jumps and figure skate like a Disney creation. Now, she has The Next Champion stamped on her. And, like Thomas, will find out whether she loves competition as much as she loves her sport.

The old are beloved here. For years the silent Ingemar Stenmark dominated the slalom. Tomba was hailed as a skiing "messiah" in fact because Stenmark and Zurbriggen have been so tame in a sport that sells thrills and is perplexed by stoics. In the final run of his final Olympic race, Stenmark, 31, took over first place with only five skiers left on the mountain. He finished fifth, yet that finish may have pleased more people than any of his 85 World Cup wins or his two gold medals at Lake Placid.

"It's a satisfying way to say goodbye," said Stenmark. "I think it is not good to make a fool of myself like I did in the giant slalom."

Nobody wanted to avoid looking foolish more than the Soviet hockey team, the gang that hasn't shot straight for two years. With the promise of bonuses for a gold and the hope that veterans might be permitted to jump to the National Hockey League if they won, the Soviets were properly motivated. They clinched the gold Friday, but today suffered their first loss since bowing to the United States in 1980, falling to Finland, 2-1.

Perhaps the deepest and most genuine public emotion that greets elite athletes is sympathy for those who work years, then meet obstacles or injuries that demand more than even an Olympic effort can surmount.

When U.S. alpine skier Pam Fletcher had her leg broken in a freak accident with a volunteer worker, she not only smiled, but actually created an ad lib for the ages. "Well, you can't have everything" said Fletcher. "Where would you put it?"

Today, Jansen, the new state-of-the-art symbol of Olympic disappointment, finally got a medal to dedicate to his sister, Jane, who died of leukemia on the morning of his first race. The U.S. Olympic Committee gave him its bronze medal Olympic Spirit Award, which honors the American athlete who "overcame adversity and . . . never stopped trying to achieve his or her Olympic goal."

"I am accepting it in behalf of my sister and her memory, and for my entire family, who have had a heck of a year this last year," said Jansen, who fell in both the 500- and 1,000-meter speed skating events in which he seemed almost certain of medals.

For the United States, figure skaters Boitano and Thomas, both slight underdogs and dethroned world champions, were perhaps the team's most vivid figures.

"Since I was a child I heard that nobody won an Olympics skating their best. I wanted to break that . . . It's not true. It doesn't have to be {that way}," said Boitano. "You have to work your life so you can be strong enough to go out there and nail it."

He nailed it. Orser slipped. Gold.

Thomas, the first black to win a medal in the Winter Olympics, skated off the ice, saying, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry," to her coach.

But in defeat, Thomas, a Stanford student with realistic aspirations to be a surgeon, gave one of the most revelatory and complex post-mortems of any major sports event.

"I thought I would cry and throw things. I'm not that disappointed," said Thomas, whose showdown with Witt attracted the largest U.S. television audience of the Games. "After I didn't land the first triple-triple jump, I really didn't want to stay out there anymore. It was hard for me to keep going . . . {but} I'd have looked real bad if I'd just stopped . . . In practice, when I don't hit the first one, I always start over. That was my nightmare . . . I kept telling myself the whole reason I'm here is to skate great. After that, I couldn't be great. It was like, 'Well, this is no fun anymore,' and I just skated . . ."

For some, like Witt and Tomba, the moment of victory is life itself. Witt said this Olympic title meant far more to her that the one in 1984 because "now I know how many people are watching."

For others, like Jansen and Thomas, life after these Olympics may never seem so simple again. But, because of what they have learned about themselves by competing here, it will hardly seem less rich. Or their faces in our memories less fascinating.