CALGARY -- The Olympic flame gets around. The other night it was sitting at speed skating under an alias, Brian Savage, and wearing a sweatshirt that said: "Champaign Policemen's Favorite Speeder."

That would be Bonnie Blair. But Savage is not one of her sponsors. Or even from the United States. What he and his wife, and Maureen Romane, did was open their homes to some of the Blair family while Bonnie was chasing medals.

"We were part of the adopt-a-parent program," Savage's wife, Elizabeth, said. "The goal was to get all parents {of Olympians} here at the least amount of cost. None of us knew even the nationality of who we might be having. We had never heard of Bonnie Blair."

Stripped to its core, this is the Olympics -- generous and spirited people about the world, famous and obscure, helping kids achieve the thrill of a sporting lifetime.

The Blairs, Bonnie and her parents, are at the heart of the grand debate in American Olympic sport as the XV Games ended last night: Where do we go from here?

"Maybe I could give a few suggestions," Eleanor Blair said of the U.S. Olympic Committee's overview commission that George Steinbrenner is going to ramrod. "I've had quite a bit of experience."

That experience has led her to believe that simply throwing fistfuls of money at America's athletes is not going to solve much.

"One of the biggest problems {in speed skating competition} is that communication is not always the best," Eleanor Blair said. "Communication and organization. I don't want to hurt any feelings, but we've missed out on things because we haven't heard about them."

So some solutions may be as simple as making each of the sports a bit more efficient; some may be as complex as complete reorganization for some sports, and many critical fingers are being pointed toward skiing.

To many who have followed the Olympic movement in the United States, the Steinbrenner commission has the potential for useful results. They see Steinbrenner as a no-nonsense type who will shake and rattle the USOC for the first time since Congress gave it ultimate authority over Olympic sports in 1978.

"Most important, the people on the commission have no axes to grind {with any special sport or official}," said Mike Harrigan, whose work in the mid-1970s as executive director of the President's Commission on Olympic Sports helped reform the U.S. amateur athletic system.

Harrigan added: "If {the USOC} had adopted a lot of the stuff the commission recommended {more than 10 years ago}, it would have gone a long way in solving the problems."

One of the more enlightened oversight commission members, Donna de Varona, is beginning with a proper basic thought: Is the bottom line gold medals?

"We have never overwhelmed the world in the Winter Olympics," she said. "Yes, we won hockey {in 1980}. But we're also competing against nations that are getting more sophisticated all the time."

Like most of the athletes, Blair included, I do not believe medals are the ultimate measurement of a country's showing in the Olympics. Personal bests ought to count for as much as medals.

Still, this is a question that surely helped lead USOC President Robert Helmick to form the overview commission: Why, with so much more available money, has the American medal-winning percentage in the Winter Games actually declined since 1980?

"Are we giving enough support to our coaches?" de Varona wants to know. "Are our national governing bodies able to work with the college community {so the maximum number of facilities is available}? Are our children fit?"

The commission might even consider the potential conflict of Helmick also being so prominent in a federation (swimming) as well as a member of the International Olympic Committee. How can Helmick serve the best interests of one group while he's so deeply involved in all three?

He said yesterday it was important for American officials to be as active as possible internationally.

Some of the winter sports organizations -- and their leaders -- surely are going through the same sort of maturing stage all athletes do. U.S. hockey coach Dave Peterson has many admirable qualities, but not one of them is dealing with the kind of Olympic media coverage that can eventually lead to more attention for his sport.

If Steinbrenner uses his considerable energy, and de Varona and some other members properly, the committee can offer a sound sense of direction for U.S. Olympic sport.

Everybody could use a dose of the Olympic goodwill and good cheer flowing in -- and near -- the contingent of Blairs the night Bonnie won her second medal.

The Savages and their new house guest, Bonnie's uncle Leonard, had become fast friends; a brother, Chuck, was both happy and puzzled. East Germans had finished one-two, and when Chuck noticed a man in an East German jacket he said:

"Wish I knew how to say congratulations in German. I'd go over and tell him that."

A handshake usually does it, somebody said.

Chuck walked over, extended his hand and the men passed several pleasant moments together. Communication does not always involve language.

A few moments later, from their seats near one end of the rink and through a tiny monitor in a television camera, Eleanor Blair and Chuck looked at Bonnie on the victory platform.

"Two medals from the Olympics isn't bad at all," Eleanor Blair said.

"Not too shabby," said Chuck. "We'll just have to shine that bronze one a lot."