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Airport unveils giant screen in place of Olympic mural

After eight months and $2.4 million of expense, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Wednesday unveiled the new giant digital screen that’s replaced a well-known Olympic mural.

For nearly 15 years, the collage of children at Centennial Olympic Park greeted travelers at the top of the escalators coming up from the Plane Train tunnel. But it hasn’t completely disappared: The center of the mural, featuring a young girl with raised arms, makes a special appearance in digital form on the new screen.

The “Spirit of Atlanta” mural by photographer and artist Deborah Whitehouse is one of the rotating images on the digital screen, along with “welcome images” and directional signs.

Plans had been to include advertising on the 27.5-by-7.5 foot screen, but for now the $500,000 screen will just show images and directional signs, according to Hartsfield-Jackson spokesman Reese McCranie.

The installation of the screen and renovation of the escalator hall is the first project of note completed as part of the airport’s long-range $6 billion renovation and expansion.

The Olympic mural spurred strong feelings. Some said its time had passed, while other Atlantans said the sight of the familiar faces while riding up the escalator reminded them they were home.

The mural was covered by advertising periodically in 2015 and 2016, before being peeled off the wall in June 2016 to prepare for installation of the screen.

The project was more complex than first expected.

The screen and its installation cost $500,000. But nearly $900,000 was added to the construction expense for a new scaffolding system that hangs from the ceiling.

Planners discovered they could not use a floor mounted scaffolding system and had to switch to one suspended from the steel frame above the ceiling. That conflicted with the ceiling sprinkler system, so sprinklers had to be moved. And ceiling beams had to be reinforced with cross bracing to support the scaffold.

The work also included drywall, LED lights, new ceiling and steel to support the video wall.

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